May 9, 2021: 5th Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You have shown and epitomize the definition of love.  As You exhort us to follow You, that means we need to show and epitomize that same kind of love, too.  Enable us to do so, not by our own feelings and ability, but by the power of the Gospel. Amen


Text:  John 15: 9-17

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          Today is Mother’s Day.  So have you honored your mother today?  Have you remembered her sacrifices for you?  Mothers are special.  They have a unique bond with their children. After all, they carried you inside for 9 months, enduring your bouncing around while surrounded with amniotic fluid.  You felt their emotions and they experienced yours.  And one of those emotions was: love.


          One of my favorite passages is in our  lesson, John 15:16 where Christ says: “You did not choose me, I chose you.”  Why did He do so?  After all, we caused Him to die.  We caused Him to suffer for all our sins.   The answer as to why is: love.  Not merely emotional infatuation love but deep-seated self-giving love.  Unconditional love which existed before the world was born.    No son or daughter can ever hope to love their closest relative, their mother, as Christ describes here.  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now 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.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

          So, how good at doing this are you? Let’s give some modern day examples.   I know of a lady  whose son is getting married later this summer.  To attend she has been given certain criteria.  The chief one being: she has to get  the covid shot before doing so.  His mother has deep reservations about that shot and her son knows this.  Some might argue: if she loves him she should swallow hard and get the jab. But is that love?  Or is it coercion?  I also know a couple who is traveling across country to see a son, a daughter-n-law, and the grandchildren.  However, even though they test negative, they won’t be allowed in the house, or hug their grandchildren.  Tests, masks, or no masks—it doesn’t make a difference.  Let’s be honest: in that home fear has replaced love as the guiding principle.  I know these examples hit close to home.  I know you are probably thinking:  Yah, but…..However, my point is this: love is hard to practice and for humans it comes with a lot of qualifiers, doesn’t it?  And in the process, joy gets squashed many times over.  Where is forgiveness and compassion when it comes to such hard choices—on both sides? What would Jesus do? 


          For each person with one strongly held opinion, there is always someone who holds the opposite belief. And true love gets stomped on.   But isn’t it a wondrous thing that God’s love for us has no such qualifiers?  Listen again to Christ’s words spoken to the disciples who would soon all desert Him—and He knew it!  “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants,  because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, I have chosen you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name—This is my command: love each other.” 

          In view of the previous examples, this is a tall order!  Can any human love perfectly?  Do we even try?  You gave the answer earlier when you confessed your sins.  The answer is: no.  Perfect love is impossible to practice in an imperfect world.  But after the confession came the absolution, didn’t it?   That declaration of forgiveness from Christ is pure love.  “With God all things are possible.”  With Him “love conquers all.”  Again, not our love for Him, but His love for us. 

          So, how do we practice love towards others in this fear-driven world?  How do we keep this command?  By pleading His mercy.  By relying on His goodness and wisdom. And by holding sacred this truth: forgiveness is love in action.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

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