Posted on Sun, May 13, 2012
Mother's Day - John 15: 9–17
May 12, 2012 Sixth Sunday in Easter
Gospel Text: John 15: 9–17 “ONLY 2 COMMANDMENTS? I Can Handle That!”
9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
In the Old Testament there are more than 10 commandments there are more like hundreds. Plus there are tons of traditions and customs and blah, blah, blah… But today, Jesus reduces all of Leviticus and Deuteronomy into just two commandments taking up about ¼ of the page… what a waste of good papyrus!
Jesus narrow down the commandments in today’s text, and says the commandments are given to us so that the Joy of Jesus MAY BE IN YOU and so that YOUR JOY MAY BE COMPLETE.
Joy is a gift of God only received through the flowing of the Holy Spirit, flowing from God to you, changing our heart and mind all along as it courses through our muscles, arteries and veins and filling our soul!
In order for us to feel and experience this joy, we are to simply love each other AS GOD HAS FIRST LOVED US.
This is not simply another item to attach to “to do” list. Kind of like, “Oh my, with all I have on my daily schedule, I have to LOVE God too? What does God need me to do that for God? Isn’t God strong enough?”
And that is the crux of the argument. Some people have told me, this text just seems like another thing for us to do in order to:
We have all heard someone whisper after a funeral, “I am sure he/she is in heaven, they were a such nice person…” Okay Lutherans, when did your actions make you deserving of a place in heaven? Uncle Marty was plagued by this thought, and eventually he realized it wasn't due to our actions, but purely by God’s grace given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are saved. Our salvation has nothing to do with us being nice, or doing the right things, it is purely by God’s grace and compassion. Our actions are a pure “reaction” done through the desire to be thankful and knowing that as we have received grace and compassion, the only proper reaction is to do the same to everyone in the world SO THAT WE CAN BE MADE COMPLETE.
Thinking that we can earn our way into heaven, or earn God’s favor is what we call, “Works Righteousness.” Luther was all about shooting this kind of thinking down because it is neither helpful or even close to correct as to explaining the purpose of the text and helping us understand how God truly feels to us and relates to us everyday.
Listen to the last part of verse 12, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’
(I am thankful we worship in a church with a lectionary.) All through Lent we learned to what extent Jesus has gone to love us.
We all know the Gospel in a capsule Bible verse, John 3:16, but listen to John 3:17 as well.
16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
We are not to just love God with only our own strength, but through the love we have received through the death and resurrection of Christ.
We are to avoid any kind of ‘worm theology.’ The kind of theology we hear so often on TV, “I am such a low-life, unable to do anything right on my own, a pure failure in everyone’s eyes, especially before God… Go ahead, punch me, then I’ll feel better!”
Yes, we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but the point is that looks at us truly like children, and will not just look at us from a distance and say, “poor things, better send a savior as their lifeguard!” God looks at us like children and does not remain at a distance, but runs to our side to comfort us. God fills our heart with hope that gives us strength and helps us to understand that ultimately God is in control. God gives us strength to comfort those who mourn and lift up those who need comfort and assistance. God gives us wisdom to right what is wrong, identify and illuminate injustice so that it can be eliminated and changed. God gives us compassion so that we can feel with and for the persons who are suffering.
To be made complete in our lives is to love each other, just as Jesus has already loved us. And look at the examples we have to work with:
As you all know, my family has been going through several very difficult ordeals. Many tears have been shed and there are still many unanswered questions.
Through it all there are two facts that have made themselves so clearly evident. First, the Gospel of Jesus tells me that not even death can separate me, or any of my loved ones, from the sting and power of death. Second, God is all around me and I have seen it, experienced it and have been lifted up by it… “it” being all of you who have reached out to us, or are always reaching out to the needs of those in our faith community.
Stephen Ministers continue to care for those in need, people have stepped up to help fill holes in their tribes, people have made themselves available to organize our Vacation Bible School, countless people have offered prayers, meals, offered baby-sitting time, almost anything for my family as we care for Kai’s needs in the hospital. People have also been good at making sure their offering is being offered on time and at the right amount, thinking about the summer.
You are loving and caring just as you have been loved… with faithfulness and compassion.
You love and care for each other, because your faith has seen that you have first been loved, the only natural reaction therefore, is to be the People of God, filled with compassion, love, mercy, hope and joy. Let that Spirit continue to flow through you so that you can be made complete, Blessed to be a Blessing. Amen.
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