Apr 24, 2016 – love love love love
When you leave here today you will not be the same as when you came in. You will, hopefully, be living your life differently. You will be thinking differently about yourself and your congregation. You will never be the same again. Of course that’ll be up to you. If you don’t want to be different or changed you don’t have to be. That’s always true when we read God’s word. We can choose to ignore it and go on our merry – or not so merry – way.
Speaking of God’s word –how’d it go this week? Remember I said there might be a quiz? Were you able to use any of the 6 suggestions from last week about how to see Christ as the Lamb of God through reading the bible everyday?
This week in God’s word we’re looking at how that word changes us and our actions. We’re looking at how the love of God is what makes us different than we were before. How will we be changed by that love? Well, I can’t give you your own specifics, but I can tell you that you will know about love in a new way. And that knowledge will either change you and allow you to see your life and how you can live it differently, or not. That’s up to you.
I know you’re not used to hearing things like this from me are you? You’re not used to hearing me say that ‘things are up to you’. Usually it’s about how you are different because of what God has done for you, not what you can do differently. Well that is also true today. Both things are true. Because you can only be different because of what God has done.
And if you do choose to listen and learn something new about love, that can guide you in how to be different. In today’s gospel lesson in verses 34 and 35 Jesus speaks about love. Let’s read those verses together. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So let’s talk about this love Jesus speaks of a few moments and learn something about it. You remember me talking about C. S. Lewis a while back, he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. He was a Christian apologist, an Oxford don and he died the same day as JFK was assassinated.
Well he also wrote a book called the Four Loves. It’s a wonderful book about the four words in Greek that all get translated into our language as, love. And that’s unfortunate because each has their own unique meanings and none of those meanings has to do with Madison Ave telling you; you’ll love this car or you’ll love that dish soap. The four loves are eros, storge, phileo, and agape.
Lets deal with eros first. That one may sound like another word you know, erotic. And eros is generally about that sort of love. Its self seeking and sensual and usually sees the other person as a means to please one’s self. But eros is the one of the Greek words for love that is, interestingly enough, not in the New Testament. At any rate eros is not what Jesus is talking about in verses 34 & 35 today.
Neither is He talking about storge. But storge, or forms of it, are found in scripture. Storge is used to refer to family-type love. It’s the natural type of love that families share. This is the affection that cousins and uncles and moms and dads and sons and grandmothers express. It’s a strong and powerful bond. But this too is not the love that Christ speaks of today either. It’s seen a few places in scripture as we said, but not here.
Then there is phileo. And this one may sound more familiar. Ever heard of Philadelphia? It’s known as the city of … that’s right brotherly love. Now phileo is often used in the gospels and in the New Testament. This is the deep love of a true friend. It is a close and binding sort of thing. In the Old Testament the story of David and Jonathan is a good expression of this sort of love.
Phileo is used by the Jewish crowds when they saw Jesus weeping over Lazarus’s tomb and talking about how Jesus ‘loved’ or ‘phileo’d’ Lazarus. It’s also the expression that Peter uses when, after Jesus resurrection and they are walking by the sea, Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him, and Peter uses this word phileo, in reply. So phileo is a strong and potent expression of care, of embrace, of affection.
In fact this word can also, in certain contexts, be translated as ‘kiss’. Not in the erotic sense, but in the affection of one person for another sense. When you hear in the New Testament to ‘greet one another with a holy kiss’ like in Romans 16:16, that’s a form of this word phileo. But again this isn’t the word Jesus uses in the gospel lesson today.
Are you ready? Some of you may know this word for love; this is the word, agape. This is the word that speaks of selfless love; the word that describes love that is the opposite of self-seeking. This is love that seeks the best for the other. This is the love that chooses and decides to act in the best interest of the beloved. There was a man who one day made such a decision and his choice presents a good picture of the love we’re talking about now.
It started with a fire. Both parents died in a tragic fire on the first floor of the house, where they slept. Upstairs the couple’s young son leaned out the window, crying for help. Suddenly, out of the watching crowd came a man who climbed up the side of the house by hanging on to the gutter pipe, even though it was red hot from the fire on the first floor. He saved the boy and then was gone. Since both parents were dead, there was a court hearing to decide who should have charge of the boy. A neighboring farmer offered a good home. A wealthy man promised to give the boy whatever he needed. Then in came the man who had saved the boy. His only claim was his scarred hands. As soon as the boy saw him, he rushed to hug him. The hearing was over.
The man had chosen to make a sacrifice for the benefit of the boy and that act of love demonstrates the kind of love that changes a person. That’s the kind of love Jesus was talking about in the gospel lesson today. That’s the love that Jesus speaks of when He gives a new command. Again read verse 34. 34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’
The new command of Christ to His followers is His marching order so to speak. This command needs to be seen by us also in the context in which it is given. This command is given within 24 hours of when Christ goes to the cross and will there show the disciples, us and the world what / true / selfless / love looks like. And that selfless love is what Jesus says when He says, in verse 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. He isn’t using the word love as it’s used by Madison Avenue when talking about soap or a car like we said. It also isn’t romantic love. It also is not talking about family love, like between brothers and sisters. And it’s beyond even the love of a close friend.
Earlier in this same chapter Jesus has done the work of a servant for the disciples. He’s washed their feet. He did this to demonstrate this agape love, the self-giving love, that’s willing to do what’s needed for the other. Agape love is love in action. It’s not about flowery emotions or deep ‘feelings’. Agape love is restless until the one upon whom love is being shown has all that they need.
It’s a love that is kinetic, that is, it moves and acts and is seen by being demonstrated. Like the man who rescued the boy from the fire. Agape isn’t confined to talk. It is not defined by emotions. Agape love is what Christ commands here. And it’s what He has shown in the foot washing, and it’s what He will show on the cross. He will go to the cross and do, and do, what needs to be done in order that the world which Jesus loves will have what it needs, and that is reconciliation with God the Heavenly Father.
Jesus rests in grave only after that work of atonement is accomplished. Until then Jesus doesn’t stop acting in love. And today in verse 35 we are given the command to do likewise. Not that we’re needed to redeem the world, that’s ridiculous. But we are given the order to love / one / another / as Christ has loved us. That means action, participation, movement, going and doing. It means seeing that each other’s needs are met. It’s the foot washing that another person needs.
Jesus says that if we want the world to know that we follow Him, then love is what we’ll show one another. The mark, the sign and signal to others that we are of Christ and that He claims us as His followers is, that we act in love, in agape, toward fellow believers. Jesus says that in this way the world will take notice and will know that we are of Him.
Agape is the badge of the disciple, of the follower of the person of Jesus Christ. The Christian knows the love Jesus has for him. Because Christ is risen… And the love of disciples for one another is not merely edifying, it reveals the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and Their love for the world.
Agape-type love is the mark of identity we bear. It is that, which makes us different as we leave here today. This is the-self sacrifice that Christ exemplifies and that is what shows us to be different to the world around us.
That’s a hard thing for us since our society tells us to be our ‘own’ person. Create our own reality. Be a self–made person. But Jesus instead, calls us to be the people, the followers, the disciples that He has sacrificed to make us to be. We’re to be people that demonstrate we follow Him – and not ourselves. We are followers. If we’re not, if we choose to not show agape-love, then we’re leaders and we’re leading people away from God and toward death.
In showing love, in showing agape, to one another, the world will see and wonder at it. We don’t want them to follow us; we want them to follow the One we follow, Jesus Christ. Only in Him is life and hope and salvation. If we’re following Him then we are serving one another by reflecting His love as He has loved us.
History tells us that Alexander the Great would often hold court on the battlefield to try offenders on the spot. Once a young man, a mere boy, fair-haired and still too young to shave was brought before him on the charge of desertion. He was accused of hiding in a ditch to avoid the battle. Alexander the Great asked the soldier, “What’s your name?” The young man replied, “Alexander!” Alexander the Great came down and stood face to face with the young man. Then extending his arms, he took the young soldier by the shoulders and shook him, and said to him: “Either change your name, or change your conduct!” Either we strive to reflect, imitate, and witness to our risen, living Lord Jesus Christ, or we don’t. And if not, then should we bear His name?
God’s great agape can be reflected in our lives, because His great love has been poured out on us. What you do with that love is your choice. That He loves you is beyond your choosing, because He has chosen you; to love you and to give you life eternal in the name of His son Jesus Christ, in whose name we act and in whose name we pray. Amen.
Sermon #824. Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Acts 11:1-18
11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Second Reading Revelation 21:1-7
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
Holy Gospel John 13:31-35
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”