Archive for the ‘John 15:9-17’ Category

This is Love!

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Easter Sunday 6B, May 13, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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This is love!  What is?  This!  What… this?  All of this!  The fact that we are actually here on a Sunday morning, gathered around God’s  Word hearing about His love; the love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father, and God’s love for us!  What?  I don’t get it!   Exactly, and that’s why we sang the hymn, “My Song is Love Unknown.”

How could we ever truly understand a God who is love, loving each of us who are loveless?  How can we understand a God who comes  to us in our flesh, lives, suffers and dies so that we will not only know love, but be love just as He is love?!  Oh who am I that God should  not just die for me, but invite me into life, His life of love unknown?  Who are you that God should love you that intensely?  And yet He  does!  This morning let’s look into this relationship of love that the Father has invited each of us into.

First there is the model love itself, which is God!  “God is love”—perfect and eternal love.  This is the love the Father has for the Son and  Spirit, and the Son and Spirit have for the Father.  This kind of love isn’t reciprocal or growing, it is real and abiding love that is simply  the nature of God, one God who exist in three persons who are each equally love!  And it is this love of God that sent the Son of the  Father to reclaim sinful man; to bring all of mankind back into God’s relationship of love!

The Son comes to sinful man because of His love for His Father.  He becomes one of us, so that He can teach us love, by demonstrating  love; love that the Son has for the Father!  Love that keeps God’s commandments of love!  There are only two commandments of love,  and Jesus came to teach us that they are not burdensome. [1 John 5:1-8]  He came to demonstrate what love for God and for neighbor is.  The Son loves the Father—and that means that He keeps the commandment that Father gave Him.  He loved His Father by coming to us, and He loves His brothers, you and me by dying for us!

So love is obedience; doing the will of the Father simply because God is love.  “This is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” [1 John 4:10] He came to die for us!

Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will because God is love and God loves those that He has created in His image.  God loves you!  God created you in His image but your sin has destroyed that image.  So God the Father sends His Son to become your brother so that He can save you; redeem you through the suffering and death of His Son.  Only Jesus, God’s own Son could do this great thing for you because only God is love, and Jesus is God!

Jesus comes to us because of His love for us.  Just as Jesus alone chose who would be His apostles, it is Jesus who chooses you, because Jesus is God and God is love!  So Jesus comes to us not as an angry God who will order His servants to serve with fear and trembling, but as a loving God who calls us friend, so that we will trust and obey; so that we will love.

Think of this for a moment.  You did not choose God, but He chose you; while you were a loveless sinner, Christ died for you!  And because your sinful flesh always wants to ask how and why, Jesus lived to die so that you could learn the how and why.

Jesus alone stoops down to us to serve us His slaves.  The Creator of the universe stoops down to wash the feet of His creation.  The Master of all creation becomes a servant by taking on our flesh and dying in our flesh.  In the upper room, on the night of His betrayal, knowing that soon He would be betrayed by those He loves; knowing that He would be attacked and killed by those He loves; “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, (He) rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” [John 13:1-17]

On the cross, Jesus would give one last example of this precept of love.  He would teach that love is demonstrated in obedience; His obedience to the will of the Father; His obedience to suffer and die for the world… for you!

This is love, not that we love God but that He first loved us.  And because He loves us by coming to us we love Him!  We love our Master who became our servant in death, and because we love Him, we remain in His love.  We abide in His will, in His church, in His Word and Holy Sacraments.  We learn simply as we are taught, we learn to abide in God’s love by turning to Jesus and trusting in Him alone.

We abide in His love through Jesus Christ by admitting first that we need His love.  We need His love because we do not deserve His love.  We don’t deserve His love because we are sinners.  That is who you are… that is who we all are!

We abide in His love when we confess our sinfulness and receive His undeserved love and forgiveness.  We abide in His love when we celebrate the fact that He is an on time God, who always meets our needs.  We abide in His love when we rejoice in a love that has found us; a love that is greater than all things, even our sin, our death, and the devil!

We abide in His love but we also keep His commandment to love one another as He has loved us!  Because God’s love through Jesus Christ has overpowered our sin, and because He has recreated us in our baptism back into His image, we celebrate by becoming the servant of all, just as our Master has done.  We go out of our way to meet the needs of others and the needs of God’s church.

I guess, our love is a little like a tennis game.  We give our love to each other, back and forth like the ball is volleyed back in forth during a tennis match.  In tennis, however there is always a winner; so maybe the analogy falls short, but then again maybe not.  I mean, couldn’t we think of our match of love ending with no winners.  In tennis, when you finish with no score, they call that love.  You might hear a report of a tennis match like this: “He won that round, 40/love.”  So we could say that our match of love ends as love/love.  God’s love for us and our love for each other wins the day!

Dear friends, our love for God and each other is unknown to the world.  But we know that it is a love that can only be realized, taught, and learned through Jesus Christ.  And that love  comes to us from heaven to the cross, to the empty tomb, through the Word of the Gospel, the waters of baptism, and then into our hearts.  Yes Lord, our song is love unknown, our Savior’s love to us.  Love to the loveless shown so that we might also love.  Oh who are we that for our sake our Lord should take frail flesh and die for us, for even me?  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost AMEN!

Love One Another… or Else!

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego, CA
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“These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” [Jn. 15:9-17]

INTRODUCTION: These Words of Jesus may be hard Words for some here this morning.  In fact, you may find it easier to relate to this little ditty: “To live above with saints we love, that will be joy and glory; to live below with saints we know, now that’s a different story.” Sometimes, people can just be hard… no, they can be impossible to love.  And yet, that is exactly what we are commanded to do—love one another. 

I. If our gospel lesson is the first of a one-two punch, then the epistle gives us the knock-out blow.  Listen: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” [1 Jn. 5:3]  That’s God’s love?  Keep His commandments?  OK.  Do you think you can do it? Before you answer, let me put a little light on the challenge.  Luther sums up the fulfillment of the first three commandments this way: “We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.”  And in regards to our neighbor, Jesus says that we should love our neighbor as we love our selves.”  Friends, within these Words we find the terrifying hammer of God; a hammer that smashes all of our “good deeds” along with our sinful behavior into an eternity of suffering, our suffering which can be the only payment for our sins.

In God’s commandments He demands far more from us than just doing our best or living a life that this world might judge as good and decent.  He demands perfection, which is something we all fall short of, and God’s Word makes sure that we know this, (for) it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” [Romans 3:10-12]We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” [Isaiah 64:6]  Now do you understand how hopelessly lost we are if we think we can keep God’s commandments?

II. In our reading this morning from the Book of Acts, we join up with Peter and his companions who were directed by God to look for a Roman citizen in Caesarea named Cornelius.  He was a man who we would call a seeker of the true religion…he wanted peace with God.  He was studying the Jewish religion, with a desire to know the true God.  In a dream, he was told that Peter would come to him and help him discover this very thing.  Now Peter also had a dream, and within his dream God told him three times to kill and eat unclean animals, and each time Peter argued with God and said that he would not eat food that was unclean.  But God put an end to Peter’s protests by declaring  that he should not declare unclean what God had declared clean.  Now while Peter was trying to make sense of this dream, a servant of Cornelius arrived at the home where Peter was staying and asked Peter to come and speak to his master.  Now under normal circumstances, a devout Jew like Peter would never enter the home of an unclean gentile.  But these were not normal circumstances and Peter was not about to argue with God again over what is clean and unclean.  So off Peter went, because he wanted to do the right thing…He wanted to go where God was sending him.  You see, even Peter had trouble obeying God.  Even Peter on his own could not do good.

Something that has become clear in our message so far this morning is that doing good is not the simple matter that many people like to make it. Let’s look at Cornelius! If his honest convictions to live a good life were all he needed to please God, then why was he seeking the true religion? If the Jewish religion had been enough, why was Peter sent to his home? No, God had made it clear to Cornelius that simply following a few moral rules of life apart from knowing the true God was a hopeless tragedy.  God was about to make it clear to Cornelius that He had to know the true God, He had to know Jesus, the Redeemer in order to find peace.

So that was Peter’s task to preach peace with God…he must preach the gospel.  Peter was to be the mouth of God.  He was to preach the good news.  The preacher is to preach only what he is ordered, no more, no less, and without alteration. And this remains the preacher’s task to this day.  Pastors are never allowed to preach their own ideas. Only one message has the Lord’s approval. Any change to that message, any substitution for it, is not only empty but, when it pretends to be the Lord’s true message, it makes the preacher who proclaims it a liar, a false prophet.  What is that message?  It is Law and Gospel.  First, in regards to the law, Peter declared that Jesus has been appointed to be the judge of the world.  All men, women, and children, living and dead will be judge.  They must stand before a perfect judge and be perfect themselves.  But this is only half of the message, for you see according to God’s love Jesus is also the savior of all those who now stand before God as being unclean and worthless.  Just as it was Peter’s privilege to declare the gospel to Cornelius, it is my privilege today to announce to you “that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” [Acts 10:43] Every one of you that believes that Jesus suffered and died for you, and every one of you that believes that He is YOUR Savior and your God, are forgiven and you like Cornelius truly have peace with God!  Without the name of Jesus, there can be no forgiveness of sins… there can be no peace with God, but through faith in his name, your heart is able to cling to Jesus and rely upon Him in life and in death.

Dear friends, it is the gospel that has brought you to God through Jesus who is your saving and loving Lord. His “gospel of peace” [Eph. 6:15], now rules your heart in a way that allows you to really enjoy the fullness of this peace. And it is the gospel that will carry you through for the rest of your days, moving you to trust in God’s kind heart.  Now we see that apart from Jesus and His name, there is indeed no one righteous, not even one, but by faith in the name of Jesus, through faith in God’s saving gospel, a miracle has happened in your heart… a sinner is made righteous.  Because of your faith in the gospel God declares you to be pleasing to Him, and because you please Him, He moves your heart to sorrowfully confess your sins and then turn to Him through Jesus for forgiveness.  Friends, we are pleasing to God and saved from our sins because we believe and accept His forgiveness through Christ.  And every day God miraculously renews our faith, over and over again!  And this is guaranteed to us as long as we abide in the love of Christ.  And how do we abide in His love?  By keeping His commandments! [Jn. 15:9-10] Will you fall short?  Yes!  But when you do you have friend in God who sees the sorrow in your heart, hears your confession, and forgives you because you have faith in the name of Jesus! 

III. Friends, God is looking for your love.  Love for Him and love for your neighbor.  It isn’t easy; in fact Jesus calls it the narrow or the hard way.  Maybe God will test you as He tested Peter.  Maybe right now God is asking you to love someone that is different from you; someone who makes you uncomfortable because of their race, color, creed, or social behavior.  Maybe He is asking you to forgive and love someone who has hurt you deeply.  If so, remember that He has said that we must not declare unclean what He has declared to be clean.  Remember that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16] 

Listen friend, God knows it’s hard for us to love the unlovable… and yet He loves us and He calls us to walk with Him by faith.  Today, He wants you to confess your lack of love for Him and your neighbor and then to simply trust that because of your faith in Jesus God loves and forgives you.  But He won’t let it end right there, because you see,   He wants to change you.  He wants you to ask Him to change your heart and then let Him lead and guide you where He wants you to go, and to love who He wants you to love, just as He led Peter.  You see, this is love…that we keep His commandments.  It’s our love for Him demonstrated as we let Him change our hearts, and its His love for us when we turn to Him for forgiveness when we fail.  He forgives us and says ok, let’s try it again.  Follow me!  Maybe He will lead you right to the person or persons you can’t seem to love; if He does, it will be alright, because He will be with you and He will be working through you.  What work will He be doing?  Why He’ll be calling more sinners just like you into a saving relationship with Him—people who will receive forgiveness of sins because they too believe in the name of Jesus Christ.  This is how God’s church grows, and this is how we become more and more dependent on His love and forgiveness in our lives.  This is how we become people who love our neighbor, by letting God seek the lost through us.  When we do this as individuals we become more like Jesus.  When we do this as a congregation, we become a healthy church.  And a healthy church is a missionary church whose whole purpose is to impart the love of God and the joy of salvation to as many people as possible.  May God help us to do this through the name of Jesus Christ…AMEN!