Sermon on John 14:15-21
I would like to comment on one verse from our lesson this morning and the verse can be found John 14:23 where Jesus says:
If you love me you will keep my commandments (Jn 14:15)
Story: Girolamo Savonarola
At the very start of his ministry/, Savonarola noticed an elderly woman/ who used to come and pray regularily /before the statue of the Virgin Mary.
One day, he took an elderly priest aside /who had been serving in the cathedral for many years /and said,
"Look how devoted this woman is.
She comes every day to offer prayers /to the blessed Mother of Jesus.
What a marvelous act of faith."
But the elderly priest replied,
"Do not be deceived by what you see.
Many years ago /when the sculptor needed a model to pose for this statue of the blessed Mother, /he hired a beautiful young woman to sit for him.
This devout worshiper you see here everyday/ is that young woman.
She is worshiping /who she used to be."
She might have thought she was serving God with her devotion,/ but when there is an ulterior motive that is not worshipping God.
Our Gospel reading is part of a discourse that Jesus had with his disciples – and in which he made the momentous claim
I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me (Jn 14:6).
And you might be tempted to think that Jesus is therefore telling the disciples that by keeping his commandments they will be saved.
You see- so often those - both inside the Church and outside - think that Christianity is all about keeping rules.
The picture they have of God is of a stern “Victorian Father” who doesn’t want us to have fun and has to be obeyed.
Yet I would suggest, this is not what Jesus is saying at all.
He said: If any one loves me he will keep my commands.
Or as he put it in John 14: 21
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
We don’t keep God’s commands in able for God to love us
We keep God’s commands BECAUSE WE love HIM.
And that is a world of difference.
We should want to do what God likes – defined by his commands - because we love him.
Story: There was a tyrannical husband who demanded that his wife conform to rigid standards of his own choosing.
She was to do certain things for him as wife, mother, and homemaker.
In time she came to hate him as much as she hated his list of rules.
He died and in time she came to love another man whom she married.
The two of them lived on a perpetual honeymoon.
Joyfully she devoted herself to his happiness and welfare.
One day she found one of the lists her first husband had written for her.
To her amazement she discovered she was doing for her second husband all the things her first husband had demanded of her – even though it was not required of her.
She was doing it all as an expression of love.
Obedience follows love.
If we love Jesus we will obey Him with joy.
God is interested not just in our deeds, but in our motivation for what we do.
Put another way, God is interested in our hearts.
Jesus told his disciples in John 15:9-10 to
Remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love”
You see Jesus’ emphasis again on our motivation.
Our goal is to remain in his love. How do we do this – by keeping his commands.
Jesus gave the Church a single great Commission.
If we really love him, we would be passionate about this.
He told the Church in Mt 28: 18-20
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”
Making disciples does not mean that you have to walk around
with a billboard on your back saying “Repent before the Day of Judgement” –
and look thoroughly miserable.
It means more than Sunday Christianity.
Dare I say it more than just coming to Church.
It requires PRAYER - for in that way we get to know the will of the Father.
Loving Jesus means that HIS WILL not mine must be done
It means helping others in the Church fulfil their God Given potential.
And being happy with their success.
It means having a heart for the lost in our villages -even if it means giving up things in our own comfort zones
Like occasionally putting on services that are more accessible to those outside the church.
Like our Café Church
It means looking for opportunities to share your faith in Christ
How many of us would be here today if the early Church had not fulfilled the Great Commission
What if Peter and Andrew and James and John had gone back to fishing and Mary and Martha had gone back to housework
We don’t share our faith with others out of a sense of obligation – but out of a sense of love.
Because if we love Christ – we will KEEP his commands.
But it is easy to fall away – to start well with God and to fall away.
The Church in Ephesus, in Rev 2, was a Church that lost its first love – and Jesus castigated it for that.
It was doing everything right – even had the right doctrine – yet their motivation was wrong.
The Church had become “religious” in the worst sense of the word.
They had become ritual Christians rather than loving Christians.
Being a loving Christian doesn’t mean park your brain at home when you come to Church and accepting any tosh thrown out of the pulpit.
Love has to do with our MOTIVATION – for Christian living.
And that means thinking about what we hear from the pulpit and deciding if it fits with Scripture
Can I leave you with one of my favourite proverbs to think about.
I must have chewed it over for a whole year when I was in Basle in the early 90’s.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23)
If you want to remain in the love of Christ, you will need to guard your heart and not allow it to chase after anything else.