Summary: A sermon about what it means to lay down our lives.
“Dare to Love”
In Matthew Chapter 7 Jesus says an interesting thing.
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He says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?
Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.
Away from me, you evil doers!’”
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That’s some pretty heavy stuff.
It makes me want to find out what the Father’s will is, doesn’t it you?
Hopefully, our Scripture Lesson for this morning from 1st John can provide a bit of a road map for us.
It says, “This is [God’s] command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”
I think sometimes we are good at believing in Jesus’ name, but perhaps, not so good at loving one another as Jesus commanded.
I think some of us have a picture in our mind of God that is all backward and mixed up.
We think God is some moralistic judge just waiting for us to “step out of line.”
That God is not “fun.”
That we, somehow, have to walk around with a serious and miserable scowl on our faces.
But Jesus was happy.
People wanted to hang out with Jesus—especially the marginalized folks: prostitutes, people with physical and mental illnesses, tax collectors, women—the folks that the religious establishment left out and pushed out.
And why did they love to hang out with Jesus?
Because He wasn’t like the priests and the other institutional religious leaders.
He didn’t judge them.
You know, when you think about it, if Jesus had chosen to, He could have made a really good Pharisee.
I’m sure it was a temptation the devil put before Him again and again.
It would have been totally acceptable, in the eyes of the religious institution for Jesus to join them in putting the heavy burdens of the Law, burdens which are impossible to carry—on the shoulders of the people—and not lift a finger to help them.
He would have been the Big Guy in town if He did what He did in order to be noticed by others.
It would have been fine, in the eyes of society, if Jesus wore extra-wide prayer bands on His arms and long tassels on His clothes in order to make Himself look special and extra holy.
It would have been thought to be normal if He had loved to sit in the places of honor at high-faluting banquets for the super superior.
If He played His cards right, He could have enjoyed the prestige of being greeted with honor in the markets and called “Rabbi” wherever He went.
The legal experts and the Pharisees would have loved Him.
He would have lived a long life.
He never would have died on that shameful, curse-ed, bloody Cross!!!
Jesus would have been considered a fine upstanding religious man if He had just mouthed the right words and kept away from the ragamuffins of society.
But that is not Who Jesus was.
That is not Who God is.
And that is not the will of the Father.
Instead, Jesus humbled Himself, and although He was God—He made Himself a servant.
And the so-called “losers” of the world loved Him because He loved them.
As a matter of fact, He loved them right into the Kingdom of God.
Jesus “laid down his life for us.”
And John tells us that “This is how we know what love is…
…And that we ought to lay down our lives for others.”
Does this mean, in order to do the will of the Father, we are called to be crucified just like Jesus?
Jesus already did that.
He took our sins upon Himself.
He became our Sacrificial Lamb.
The victory has been won.
He died so we don’t have to.
So what does it mean for us to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters?
It means, not just saying the right words…
…or mumbling the right creeds.
Laying down our lives means responding to people in need—like Jesus did.
It means making time for others.
It means befriending the homeless, the ailing, the hurting, the drug addict, the mentally ill.
It means allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us in such ways that when our fellow human beings are hurting—it effects us deeply.
It means we don’t shut the rest of the world out, and just go about our business spending our lives just on ourselves.
It means we don’t ignore the marginalized, the unpopular, the annoying.