15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.17This 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. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They 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.”
Sermon – Easter 6 – John 14/Acts 17
The gospel lesson for today picks up where we left off last week. Jesus is giving his final instructions to the disciples – He is preparing them for his departure and encouraging them with words of comfort.
Last week – the gospel talked about being sent out to do God’s work. You may remember that Jesus had promised you will do the things that I have done – and greater things than these shall you do. How is it that we do greater things? Each of us is sent out in the name of Jesus – as his ambassador – to do God’s work in the community – to be his representative – his ambassador right where we are. At the same time as we hear these words of Jesus in the gospel of John, we also hear today about the early church in the reading from Acts. This gives us an opportunity to hear what Jesus says to the church and then also to see what that looks like as it was lived out by the Apostles after Christ left this earth.
So this week the reading starts with Jesus saying, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”
What are the two commandments? – Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength AND Love your neighbor as yourself. What is more fitting then to talk about LOVE? – and the discipline and action that LOVE requires of us. LOVE is a Verb – we show our love by how we talk, treat each other and the priorities that we keep. Love is a language that we speak – we speak it with our words but we also speak it with our money and our time. We have all known people who told us they loved us and yet their actions did not match up with their words. Real love follows through – Real love demonstrates itself in more than words.
Jesus has said, “This is how people will know that you are my disciples – if you have love one to another” and He also said, “A new commandment I give onto you that you love one another as I have loved you.”
In the Acts reading we hear Paul speaking to the people of Athens.
He sees that they have a monument to an “unknown god” and he takes the opportunity – not to berate them – or to judge them but rather to do the work of God – to extend towards them. He does the work of hospitality by creating a space for them to hear the good news of the gospel. So he says, I see that you are religious and interested in religion – and that you speak about an unknown god. Let me introduce you to God – let me make God known to you. And then he proceeds to tell about God calling the nation of Israel – choosing Abraham – sending him out into the land. Paul proceeds to explain how we are made in the image of God and if that is so then obviously God is not a statue or made of gold or silver but is alive. That God appoints places and times and that he calls people to repentance because a time is coming when we will be called to judgment and brought before the man appoint to judge all. Who is this man? God has revealed him by raising him from the dead. This is man is Jesus.
You might ask, how do these two passages fit together – Jesus is speaking to his own disciples and sending them out to do God’s work and then we hear about Paul – out doing the work of God. But I do want to emphasize that this is all motivated by love. What is it that draws us towards God? – it is his love for us. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us” – Christ’s unconditional love for us draws us to him. But that is not all. Once we have experienced that kind of love we can not help but love him back – Our love for Christ compels us – drives us to want to do – Remember Love is a verb – and we show love by action.
But that is still not all. God tells us that we show our love towards Him by loving our neighbor – by loving each other.
In the last part of the gospel for today Jesus says, “21They 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.”
If you want a picture of the love of God you can read about it in I Corinthians 13. We hear this passage most often at weddings but it is not just about love between a man and a woman – the passage is revealing the characteristics of real love – true love – unconditional love.
We use the word “love” in so many ways – we overuse the word love in our everyday language. Think about it… When we are shopping, we might say… I love those shoes. Or when we are travelling we might say, I love this place. When we are young we might say, I love this movie star or I love this singer or performer. But is that really what it is to love?
Love is a verb – Love is demonstrated through actions and over time and in difficult situations. Love is best revealed in community. Some of you may have discovered that it is not always easy to love people. In fact, I would say that it is often difficult to love people. So how can we do this difficult thing? What will empower us?
Jesus promises in the gospel for today – to send another advocate. I will not leave you orphaned or in other words, I will not leave you all alone. I have been your advocate – your helper – the one who is looking out for you and when I leave my Father will send another one to look out for you – the Spirit of Truth. So we can be assured that we have the Holy Spirit – empowering us – encouraging us – equipping us and giving us the words to say – the works to do.
Someone said this week, “to be willing to be uncomfortable so that someone else can be comfortable that is love”. God asks us to step outside of our comfort zone in order to extend love to others.
This week I also heard someone say, “Visitors don’t usually come to a church because of the coffee or the music, they come because someone invited them.”
Many times in the church today, we get distracted by thinking that we need to change to draw people in – we need to do something really impressive and then people will be drawn to that event and start coming to church. But the truth is… Love is what we need. We need to be so motivated by the God’s love for us that we love him unconditionally. We need to be so motivated by the love of God that we long to do his works – to demonstrate our love for him and in appreciation for his love for us. We Love Him so much that we Love those people that he loves.
For God so loved all of the people in this world that he sent his Son so that anyone who believed on Him would not die but have everlasting life. Have we received the love of God? Have we accepted that he loves us no matter what we have done? Have we fallen in love with Him? What about those people around us who God loves… do we love them?
This is how others will know that we are his followers – we will love each other – we will love those around us. May God give us the grace to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Amen.