class=MsoNormal>May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all our hearts be acceptable in your Sight, our Lord and Saviour, Amen
Today, of course, is Mother’s day and as I heard it humorously put – the 4th holiest day of the year
Christmas – Good Friday – Easter … and then Mother’s day
Consider the wisdom of our gospel passage from a possible mother’s perspective:
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love
‘Do what I say… if know what’s best for you’
For those with more than one child – “This is my commandment, that you love one another”
‘I am ordering you to stop fighting’
“You did not choose me but I chose you.”
I have heard the comedian Bill Cosby’s make this statement that his mom had sometimes made when young Bill was getting a little out of hand – “You did not choose me but I chose you.”
‘I brought you into this world and I can take you out’
“Appointed you to go and bear fruit”
‘Go to school – make your mother proud’
“Fruit that will last”
Any one that have opened a snack bag on Monday morning when there has been fruit left over the weekend … would welcome fruit that will last
All joking aside, the message that we have today is filled with messages of deep love
Messages that we can understand a mother would proudly to make
Messages and advice that convey an intimate desire for the best for one’s children
Messages spoken by Jesus, but spoken of a parental love
The final verse in our reading today concludes with the following
“I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another”
You may have noticed that my sermon is titled “Love and obedience”
That may seem to be a strange coupling of words.
You may think that Love is supposed to be free, natural, unbinding, released from the confines of worldly pressures
You may have this understanding that when someone is in Love that they do silly things, that they throw off their normal inhibitions and “Let Love rule”
You may have been to a wedding reception or some other gathering, in which someone that you know to be normally a wall-flower is out on the dance floor – cutting rug, living it up, maybe even making a fool of himself (yes it is usually a him) and there beside him is his new girl-friend and it all quickly becomes clear – “oh no wonder… he’s in love”
This is the effects of love, right!
Loves releases us from the pressures of the norms of life and calls us to a higher goal to tolerate what we would normally not…
Well Brothers and sisters in Christ – This is not the Love of the bible, this is not the love that Christ taught and modelled for us – we are not given the message of a foolish – throw your cares away - love
And although “tolerance” or “Political correctness” is the language of the culture – they are not biblical language – certainly not the full language of love
The Love that we are taught from scripture – is not less – but so much more!
In the New Testament, as you ‘may or may not’ know was originally written in the common written language of the land, which was Greek. The Old Testament was primarily in Hebrew, but the New Testament was in Greek.
In Greek there are three main words that are used for what we have simply translated as ‘Love’
Each of the three words describe slightly different attributes of a complex word
There is: “eros” which is erotic or romantic love.
“philos” or brotherly or sisterly love for friends
And finally “agape” which has been translated as “charitable love.”
Now our culture is moved and motivated – if the marketers are correct - by eros love
“sex sells” – and one has to look no further that any number of billboards, TV commercials, newspaper ads and on and on… the message is simple and the message is very present
Thankfully, however, it is the worldly message and not the prime word of God
The word that Jesus uses is different – Jesus speaks of “agape love” – the implications are far more wide ranging – “agape” love is like grace, a free gift for others which is undeserved or unearned or unmerited. It is a free gift for those in need
Agape was a little used word of the time
However, Jesus and the first Christians sought to FIND language to express their new experience of God’s grace – to express love beyond the simple physical understanding
A “fresh minting” of a previously little-used word
Now this passage of scripture is sometimes selected for wedding services – selected, I would imagine because it speaks of the long serving aspect of love – Abiding love
And that is so important and we will get to it more of that later
But it is also appropriate for weddings because it reflects the beginning of marriage life, the “fresh minting” of two people
Two people previously solely individuals are minted in a new unique way
The word has taken on a uniquely new and Christian sense to it
A sense of family belongingness which transcends the previous sense of the word
It is the type of love that binds
This lesson on language is important, not for the wordsmiths out there, but so that we can gain a greater understanding of what Jesus is trying to communicate.
Communicate at a crucial moment of his life.
Our passage today is from what has become known as the “upper room discourses”
This is part of a large section in John’s gospel account, where we hear of Jesus’ instructions and teaching on his final night – the night before He was to die a brutal death on the cross
Jesus has shared his life with his closest friends for three years up to this point
- They have witnessed His unworldly beginning of His adult ministry, when he was baptised by John in the Jordan – when a dove descended on him and voice from Heaven declared that “this is my Son in whom I am well pleased”
- They witnessed the miracle at the wedding at Cana – where He turned water in wine
- And yes there was probably some guy there dancing silly for his new love
- They have been with Him when he returned home to Nazareth and claimed incredible claims and enraged His hometown so much that they wanted to kill Him by throwing Him off a cliff
- A select few were there for the incredible Transfiguration, in which they were visited by Moses and the Elijah (representing the law and prophets) and heard again the voice from heaven
- They were there for the feeding of the 5000
- They were there for the countless healing miracles
- For Lazarus, when Jesus brought His friend back from the dead
- The countless teaching times, where Jesus shared a new yoke with a burden that is light
- The countless acts of mercy, grace and truth - So many that John records this last sentence of his Gospel account
“There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25)
And today, we have in our service a moment from the last night before the cross
Jesus is pouring our His final instruction prior to a death that He knew was awaiting Him
And it is a message of Love….
Change that it is a Command to Love
No longer is Jesus presenting them with a message that they need to work at to understand
There is no parable here – no story – with a message – or principal underpinning it
No Jesus has left nothing to chance, in this, His last night of instruction with them
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father (John 15:12-15)
Unpacking what is being said here – reveals some very vital, dramatic and transformative lessons
The first that can not be ignored is that we are commanded to Love
The word ‘command’ comes up 5 times in only 8 verses and the word love 9 times
Sometimes the words of Jesus are obtuse, difficult to understand, demanding contextualization and explanation.
Here the case is different.
Here He straightforwardly commands.
Here Jesus simply, without options, commands us to love one another….
There may be certain worldly situations, and with a worldly response, we can chose a certain course of action because it “Make sense,” or which can simply be justified by stating, “everyone else is doing it.”
But Christians are those who, through baptism, have signed on…
Have publicly committed themselves, have promised…
to obey Jesus… And Jesus has commanded us to love….
The world has many ways in which people can influence others, ways in which power can be exerted – methods can include the use of hate, violence, revenge, war, manipulation
And the other means through which the world gets what it wants,
These are not options for Jesus’ people, people who are commanded to love.
Jesus’ command to Love would have been counter-cultural – then as it is today
In this passage from St. John, We hear a challenging message and it is focused on a new way, a new imperative to understand Love
On the surface, the first reading of the passage, could easily seems to be a simple message of Love
A heart-warming message whereby Jesus restates the “new commandment” to love one another and abide in that love
But when you look at the wording a little deeper there is no soft-pedaling around it
No way to reduce the impact
It is not a negotiable word
There is no flexibility in the word
It’s not “you might want to do this”
Or “maybe you could think of that”
The word is a clear directive
Jesus in passing on this new way of life tells it in a plain and clear way
And that message of commandment probably affected them the same way that it affects us
‘Then just as now’ we don’t like any words that tell us ‘what to do’
The trend is not lessening over time - but increasing especially in the western world where there is a growing lack of trust in any establishment
Our post modern culture motto could be
“I accept you have a opinion, but it is no more valid then my own”
Or - “what’s true for you is your truth - and what’s true for me, is my truth”
No longer are our truths a product of community
No longer do we need to be obedient to communional expectations
But Jesus, in our Gospel reading from John today, directly challenges that
Jesus commends us to Love and to abide in that love for one another
In this passage we given a more full understanding of Love
The challenges that ‘love IN obedience’ calls for are so appropriate for a marriage service and so appropriate for today – as we celebrate Mother’s day
In the end – if you want the fullest picture of God’s love
You will need to be obedient in Love - and strive to Love as He lived… and loved us…
Jesus command it
Another significant detail that of this message that Jesus shares with His disciples is that they have graduated
Notice how Jesus the Master, Rabbi, teacher has changed from calling them His disciples, students - and moved to call them His friends
He emphasizes it to make sure they understand
He explains that they a slave doesn’t know what the master is doing, they only follow instructions – but ‘sharing as Jesus shared’ He has made them more then servants – he has made the friends
Jesus states clearly, they are friends because He has shared with them “everything”
Philip Yancy writes in What's So Amazing about Grace? this:
Not long ago I received in the mail a postcard from a friend that had on it only six words, "I am the one Jesus loves." I smiled when I saw the return address, for my strange friend excels at these pious slogans. When I called him, though, he told me the slogan came from the author and speaker Brennan Manning. At a seminar, Manning referred to Jesus' closest friend on earth, the disciple named John, identified in the Gospels as "the one Jesus loved." Manning said, "If John were to be asked, 'What is your primary identity in life?' he would not reply, 'I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,' but rather, 'I am the one Jesus loves.'"
What would it mean, I ask myself, if I too came to the place where I saw my primary identity in life as "the one Jesus loves"? How differently would I view myself at the end of a day?
Sociologists have a theory of ‘the looking-glass self’: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, [mother], boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible's astounding words about God's love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?
Our goal… or using the full biblical language – our commission
Is to Go, teach, preach, initiate into community by baptism in what God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit has done, done for us and is doing… To Love as Jesus has loved us
And the reason we are to do this – as Jesus said
“so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete”
So this mother’s day – whether you are an adult or child – mother or father, one that gives or one that receives mothering love
Or (and this category includes all of us) you are one that needs God’s loving care
Hear our Lord’s commencement address to the graduating class of ’33 AD
In obedience…for one another… modelled by Jesus… LOVE
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you - Amen
 http://www.chapel.duke.edu/ - 5/4/1997 - Commanded to Love - Dean William Willimon