Love Actually

Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:8-20
John 14:15-21

Reverend Dr. Stephen R. Caine

 

14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:15-21, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: Holy One, you have shown us the greatness of your love in Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us. Keep us always in Christ’s love so that we may abide by your commandments and share our love with the world; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

As George mentioned in his sermon last week on the first fourteen verses of chapter 14 in John, we have gone back in time.  The Lectionary time machine has taken us back to the evening of what we know as Maundy Thursday.  The setting is the upper room somewhere in Jerusalem, where Jesus is sharing his last supper with his disciples.  He tells them he is leaving that he is going to die.  The disciples are worried.   He is about to leave them behind.  Their time with Jesus has been short, only three years but they have experienced a lifetime with him.   His earthly ministry is about over.  No more teaching, no more healings, no more breaking bread together.   They are left behind.[1]

 

So, Jesus tries to calm them and reassure them that it will be okay.  This is a small segment of the four chapters of the Gospel of John is known as Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse.”  His followers are anxious, confused and downright scared. Their close, intimate, personal relationship with him is over and it can never be repeated.  How will they go on without him?   How can they survive?

 

So, Jesus tries to calm and reassure them that it will be okay.  Here is a cliff notes version of what he says to them:

“When I leave, I will send into your midst the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to hold you together and to lead you forward.”  The Holy Spirit will continue this ongoing, continuing, ever expanding, spiritual community that is defined by love.[2]

 

Then he gets even more to the point with a tangible example as he says,

 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

 

And what are Jesus’ commandments?   Remember, they were all about loving God and each other?  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind; and the second is like unto it—you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  In another place, he says: “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”[3]  It is clear that Jesus’ wants his followers, you and me to love one another.

 

The problem, as we all know it is much easier said than done to love one another.  Loving people you like is hard enough; so, how can Jesus order us, command us to love even those we don’t like?  What can we to do?  Apparently, we can be taught to hate but not to love.

 

Not many things are more misunderstood and more complicated than the concept of love.   In the English language, Love is one word but it means so many different things in life.  Consider how we use the word love in our everyday speech.  I love ice cream, I love to golf, I love the beach or the mountains, and I just love that outfit.

 

We often think of love, as a feeling, I am so in love with him, I am floating on a cloud, I am tingly all over.  But it is so much more than an emotion, or feeling, love is a choice, a way of life, a commitment.  So, how do we begin to love others in the way our lord loves us?

 

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  It is a part of our basic human nature that we hear these words as a command to be obeyed, as a rule to be kept, and as work to be achieved.  But our ears are deceiving us.  Our ears hear Jesus saying something he didn’t say.  We hear: “If you want to prove to the world and to God that you love me, then you will have to show it by loving one another.”  That’s what we hear, but that’s not what he said.   Jesus gave us a word of gospel, not law.  A word of promise, not judgment.  If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  If you are a child of God, you will act like one.[4]

 

Jesus’ point is that our capacity to love people is not something we develop or achieve or even learn; instead it is a gift of God. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” is a promise from God that being in relationship with him is a life-changing, transforming experience.  As Christ begins to live more and more within us, as we open our lives more and more to Christ’s leading, we find ourselves more and more able to treat others in a loving and respectful manner.  The loving relationship we have with Christ spills over into loving relationships with those around us.   And Jesus says even though I am leaving, the community we have created will continue to live and grow into the future.   “I will not leave you orphaned, alone, unloved and uncared for. I will send the Spirit to carry you the rest of the way.” The Holy Spirit is in you and in me and in our community of faith, calling us, leading us and guiding us, to love one another lived out through our behavior, so that the love of God can shine through.   It is what a community of faith is all about.   We come here to the Indian Hill Church to be a part of a community where love and compassion are extended to each of us and likewise to one another.  That is it.  When a community of faith connects, and lives out the fullness of this relationship with God the love multiplies.  So, when we walk out of these doors the love we have shared and experienced and heard about through the Gospel goes with us in all of the people we encounter on our journey of life.

 

May it be so in your life and mine. Amen.

Let us pray:

 

 

[1] The Reverend Dr. KC Ptomey, Jr. “A Homily for Pentecost John 14:8-17, 25-27.” Preached on May 27, 2007 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, TN

[2] The Reverend Dr. Delmer Chilton, “Are we done?” May 15, 2017, Lectionary blog for May 21 The Sixth Sunday of Easter based on Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22 and John 14:15-21

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.