May 14, 2023  Sixth Sunday of Easter

Readings: 1st Peter 3:13-22; Acts 17:13-22; John 14:15-21

Becoming (One with one another)

We continue today with part two of this series “becoming”, last week was about becoming one with Christ and today is about becoming one with one another. The setting is still with Jesus talking to his disciples the night before he is crucified. He continues to give them instructions on how to live after he is gone. The main thrust of this passage this morning is that Jesus is not leaving the disciples; nor us, alone. He leaves with us the spirit of truth to help in our understanding and to guide us through life. From John 15:12 we read “my command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” As Disciples of Christ, we are to love each other as he loved us? If we love each other as he loved us even though he is no longer visible in the world, then will we be able to see him? Jesus goes on to refine that if we keep that commandment that we will be loved by God and Jesus. In return for keeping that commandment, Jesus will reveal himself to us through the spirit of the triune God.

No matter what; you must admit that Jesus did have a very special relationship with his 12 disciples, but he also loved and had a relationship with everyone he met. Last week in Bible study in the series the Chosen we witnessed Jesus’ love for the children. Yet in staying with today’s topic, let’s look at how he loved his disciples.

To start with, Jesus loved his disciples by giving. Jesus constantly gave to the needs of his disciples. Of course, we know Jesus gave his life by dying on the cross but that was only his final act of love. Jesus also demonstrated giving by his act of love to all those who crossed his path. Jesus showed the disciples by loving the poor, the oppressed, the outcasts, the sick and diseased, the deformed, the lame, the deaf, the dumb, the women and children. Jesus demonstrated love for those who were in his inner circle, those that were just following, those outside of the faith and different ethnic/culture groups. And yes, Jesus even showed love to his enemies.

Jesus did not ask the disciples to serve him, but to serve one another. Jesus made sure that they were aware of his mission which was to serve. To serve one another is to look after their needs and to help them along by lifting them up. On that very same night that we have been discussing Jesus even washed the disciples, as a servant. So, in Christ like love, we too are called to serve one another. It is not enough just to do for other people in need but to love them while you’re serving. Remember anything that you do if it is without love, it’s like a banging gong. You can serve out of obligation or simply because Jesus commanded, but that is not Christ-like servitude. Without love our actions are meaningless.

Jesus taught the disciples about love in his actions toward others which was the way he lived and acted in the world. Jesus sought out others in need to demonstrate his love for them which comes from the father. Jesus did this by daily giving his life away for others. Again, this is not just sacrificing his life on the cross, it was a daily sacrifice of doing for others because he loved them. Jesus gave of himself to others and in doing so, taught everyone how to love. He did this by healing the sick, and to be quite honest as we would call it, just hanging out with them. Thus, he was a part of their life. Jesus did not search out nor did he surround himself with the rich, powerful, or even successful people of the time. Nor did he seek out those that supply him with personal gain in the world. Worldly fame, power, and popularity was not a goal for Jesus, nor was he into relationships for what he could get from them. He entered the relationship for what he could give them. Jesus was always looking to give himself away to others who needed someone to love them just where they were.

Michael W Smith’s famous song “give it away” is my second favorite song of his because it says it all. Hear the lyrics.  She asked him for forever. And a promise that would last, He said, babe you know I love you, But I can’t commit to that. She said, love isn’t love ‘Till you give it away. A father lived in silence, saw his son become a man There was a distance felt between them ‘Cause he could not understand That love isn’t love ‘Till you give it away You gotta give it away. We can entertain compassion, For a world in need of care, But the road of good intentions. Doesn’t lead to anywhere, Cause love isn’t love, ‘Till you give it away, You gotta give it away. Love is like a river, Flowing down from the giver of life, We drink from the water, And our thirst is no longer denied, You gotta give it away. There was a man who walked on water, He came to set the people free, He was the ultimate example, of what love can truly be, ‘Cause his love was his life, And he gave it away, You gotta give it away, As we live, Moving side by side, May we learn to give, Learn to sacrifice Michael W. Smith – Give It Away Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

I do not believe this series just simply happened. I believe that God’s hand is in it. Let me give you some particulars on why I feel this way. The series that I’m following was developed several years ago. It also follows the current Lectionary, and I recently found it in my research. Lyla and I started questioning what God needed us to do in ministry six years ago. God was calling us into full-time ministry. Questioning led to a multitude of conversations between Lyla and I, the conference, and the districts. This Sunday in the lectionary marks six years that we knew we were coming to Hope United Methodist with the gifts that we have been graced with by God to help this community. Since being with one another we have accomplished a lot here, with more to do together. I believe that God had us leave Maple Hill as He intended us to do. Just as Moses had to let the Israelites across the river without him, so they had to continue without me. And as we see in John 14 Jesus telling his disciples that he must go on to a place where they cannot nor will they be able to see him anymore, he is telling them how to go on and in love for one another. So many times, today we put conditions and limits on our love for one another. I love you but! Or I will love you if you. We then end up alone, unloved and unloving.

The good news for us this morning is that when we try to love one another as Jesus did with his disciples, we are not working alone. Coming down here I’m giving you the tools you need to love one another. The biggest tool you need, I cannot give you because you already have it, is the Holy Spirit! We all have the Holy Spirit present with us to help guide and teach us because Christ told the disciples the spirit would be with them, and it is with us. God’s advocate the spirit is always there to strengthen us in times of adversity to lift our hearts when needed and is always there rejoicing when things do go right. The Holy Spirit is always in front of us in our work towards loving one another and has been here long before I arrived. We can praise God that he gave us the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ to guide and protect us always. The spirit is here with us, around us, within us, reminding us of and nudging us to love one another as Christ loved his disciples. God gave us the greatest example, the ultimate example of love, all we must do is follow his lead.

The New Testament readings both tell us that we are to continue to spread the Good News in the name of Jesus to all of creation. Giving Hope to all who will listen. There will be those that will not hear with love for one another, but the Holy Spirit will protect our eternal spirit. Peter tells us to do it in gentleness and respect. Jesus preached to those who disobey the law of God.

We learn to love Jesus through reading of the Scriptures and his stories of his love and practicing his commandment. The first step as we talked about last week was embracing his love and learning to be one with Christ. Step two is learning to love each other as he loved us. It is a continual journey that we must take daily. True, we will have trials and tribulations and even failures, but the Holy Spirit is right there with us and all of that. Peter and Paul tell us that not all with listen to us or accept the truth, some will try to harm us for spreading the Good News. We must continually get to know Jesus better, which requires us to continually commit to him. So, I do ask for and covet your prayers as Lyla and I as we commit further through Christ our Lord in a deeper service to you, his people. We will also continue to pray for you. You hold a special place with us as I hope we hold a special place with you. So may we all continue to serve our Lord in love and servitude for God’s people in 2023 and beyond.

Ultimately, we received God’s peace through Christ. He told his disciples “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, I do not give it as the world gives.” Friends, the world does not teach us to give love away because it demands us to seek out love to be received. The world tells us we must be adored and to receive all that we can, but that is not the Christ way. Jesus closed today’s passage with the following “he who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” So, we carry on his commandment, Jesus will be revealed to us in oh so many ways. We will see him and miracles, we will see him in joy and we will see him in the friends we make as we pass along in this life. May the peace of Christ be with you as we learn to love one another.