5/19/2019 Fifth Sunday of Easter The text is John 13:31-35.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
There’s a story told of a little boy who wanted to meet God. Not knowing where God lived, the boy packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and started out on his journey. When he had gone a few blocks, he met an old woman who was sitting in the park staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie. She accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted! Together they sat all afternoon eating and smiling.
As it grew dark, the boy realized it was time to go home, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around and ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever. When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”.
Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?” She replied, “I had Twinkies and root beer with God, and you know, he’s much younger than I expected.”
This is what it is to show God’s love. In his life of service, Jesus showed us what love is all about. Jesus showed us how loving others can improve the world in which we live. And Jesus wanted his love to have a powerful, positive effect on the world long past his life here among us. So, on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus gave a commandment – “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Now, this commandment is no ordinary law. It begins with God’s love permeating our lives and radiating out to the world around us. As Rev. Richard Daggett said, “this law invades the very depths of our being; this law presumes to have jurisdiction over the way we think, the way we feel, over our opinions, our prejudices and biases, our concepts of superiority, over the way every fiber of our being, both inward and outward, responds to the world around us. And this law clarifies to us that while religion and law may exercise lordship over our actions, over the way we live, Christ wants lordship over everything we are. It is the law of the spirit and not simply the law of the letter.”
This commandment that we love one another doesn’t come with a demand that we LIKE each other. Certainly, that would be nice – but to like or not to like is rooted in our emotions, and emotions do not respond to commands. The love of Jesus is something very different. It is NOT emotion. It is a way of acting toward one another in which we basically say, “No matter what, I want good for you, and I will do whatever I can to insure that you get it.” This love is not based in what we FEEL for one another, but it is something Jesus wants us to DO for one another. For, the standard for this love comes from the clause, “as I have loved you.”
In love, Jesus reached out to ALL kinds of people, especially to those whom the rest of world would shun. Out of love, Jesus took on tasks that were seemingly beneath him – servant work, like washing dusty feet. Because of love, Jesus looked past the hypocrisy of Peter, the self-serving ambition of James and John, and the vicious self-righteousness of Paul. Jesus loved and continues to love the betrayer, the denier, the fearful, the arrogant, the self-righteous, the doubter, and all other sinners, both born and unborn, with a love that is so strong that he willingly dies in their place. It is this standard of love – the standard of love that Jesus gives to us, that is the standard for love that we are to show to one another.
This, my friends, is a tall order. For, Jesus was prepared to risk pain and suffering, even death because of his love for us. He loved unconditionally. His love was genuine, honest, caring and compassionate. His love was not turned off and on by fleeting passions, or emotional highs. And out of love, Jesus didn’t draw a line and say that going beyond that line was too much to ask. His love knew no limits. That’s the type of love that he commands us to show – love that is willing to go the extra mile and sacrifice everything for the sake of another.
To love in the way that Jesus loves us means that we have to roll up our sleeves and deal with things head-on, leaving emotion out of it. It is going to those in need, touching one person at a time. When the unexpected happens, it means that we have to be willing to drop what we are doing in order to help, and that means that we have to be less self-conscious and be willing to take a risk now and then. For, real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn’t count the cost.
In showing this type of love, Jesus promised that his disciples would do greater works than his own. And, when we let God work in and through us, without hindrance, the results can be truly amazing! Tranquility can happen as the sick find healing and those weighed down by fear stride into a hopeful future. Clouds can part as the hungry find enough to get them through the darkest times, and as the blind take another look at themselves and others. Lives can change as a child gives an old woman a Twinkie and an old woman gives a child a smile. For, the love that Jesus gave and the love we are to share with one another is upfront and personal.
We are commanded to love one another with the love we have received from Christ. We are commanded to let love be our guide and our way of life. We are commanded to love without barriers and without expectation of return. And, the only way in which we can is with God’s help and the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, let us not bring forth a resounding silence when it comes to the love we have been given, but may we live in Christ’s love – receiving what we need in the grace of God and giving what we are able through the grace of God. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.