Summary: Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter
I would like you to this morning to do a mental cross-word puzzle with me. This puzzle has only one word to it, it is 4 letters long, but it is probably the most difficult word to understand in the English language. This word has caused more thorns in peoples’ sides, it has divided more people and families into different groups, it has as many different meanings to it as people who think about the word. Remember, it is four letters long and I will give you a hint, it begins with the letter L.
This word has changed the course of history, this word has made heroes out of ordinary people, it has been the source of tension, the source of doubt, the source of wonderment for many centuries.
If you haven’t guessed the word yet, maybe the following story will help.
A Gaelic legend tells of an eagle swooping down and carrying a little baby to it lofty nest. The strong men of the village tried to scale the high and rugged cliff, but each one failed. Then past them went a small, frail woman, climbing the sheer precipice and returning the baby to safety.
"How did she do it’’ the strong men asked in amazement.
She told them her secret, "I am the baby’s mother " Her love enabled her, frail as she was, to out-distance the strongest of men.
Yes, our four letter word in our mental cross word puzzle is love. Love, a simple but most complex of words. For this word, love has allowed people to change the course of history, it has allowed nations to go to war, it has allowed mankind to advance in its compassion and kindness to one another, but for all of it’s qualities, this word love is probably the most misunderstood, the less understood, the most highly charged word in our English language.
Jesus is talking about this word this morning in our gospel lesson. He says "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." Jesus says love one another. What does he mean? How am I to love? Why am I to love?
Who am I to love?
Once we start thinking about this word love, all kinds of things start happening. Questions, doubts, wonderment, values, ideas, relationships, all come into play. Yes, this four letter word seems simple enough, but in reality, it is the most, difficult thing, the most difficult concept we can encounter.
I would like to look at this commandment of Jesus this morning in two different ways, one by seeing why we are called upon by Jesus to love one another. Why Jesus gave us this commandment in the first place, then secondly, to ask some questions, to do something thinking about my, and your love.
But first, why did Jesus give us this commandment. Did you know that Jesus gave only two commandments in the New Testament? One about loving God and the other this one about loving each other. The commandments are written in different versions in different places in the New Testament, but essentially, they are alike.
He commands us to love. But that word commands is difficult for us Lutherans, because we believe that we live not by the demands of the law, but by the grace of God. So, why does he command us to love? Why does he order us to love?
Notice who Jesus was addressing when he gave this commandment. He was addressing his disciples, people who were already part of his family, people who had experienced his grace, people who were in a relationship to him. The new command has nothing to do with life or becoming a child of God. Christ has forgiven us and given us life before we even thought of obeying him.
The new command does not tell us, "Do this if you want to be saved," but rather, "Do this if you want to glorify God " Do this if you want to praise Cod, do this if you want to serve God. It-is thus not a command to qualify us for the kingdom. It is a command to us as members of God’s family. Only here does Jesus addressed his disciples as "little children. He is speaking to them as part of the family, not as people who are seeking admission. He is not telling them how to become members but how we are to act as family members.
As parents, we give instructions to our children. If they don’t listen to us, we are sad, hurt, but we don’t throw them out of the family. Obedience doesn’t make us members of a family, birth does. Likewise we become members of Cod’s family not by obeying is commands hut by receiving the new birth he give us. Ourobedience is how we glorify God. As part of the family, Jesus tells us how we are to give Glory to the father of the family, by loving one another. Jesus is saying, if it is your intention to glorify God, to give praise to God who has made you a member of his household, if you want to respond to God’s grace in your life, if you want to respond to God’s love in your life, if you want to be a responsible family member, here is how to do that; obey the command of love.