May 19, 2019 – love love love love
When you leave here today you will not be the same as when you came in. You will be living life differently. You will be thinking differently about yourself and your congregation. You will never be the same again. Of course, the reality of 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 come to 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 about how to see Christ as the Lamb of God through reading scripture every day?
This week in God’s Word we’re looking at how that Word, which reveals Christ, the Lamb of God, how that same Word of God’s love 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 your part. 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 alone has done for you! And if you do choose to learn something new about love, that can guide you in changing how you live. In today’s gospel lesson Jesus says. 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. 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 the one word, love. Each Greek word has its own unique meaning 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.
Let’s deal with eros first. That one sounds like another word you know, erotic. And eros is generally about that sort of love. It’s self-seeking and sensual and usually sees the other person as just a means to please one’s self. But eros is the one of the 4 Greek words for love that is, interestingly enough, not in the New Testament.
So, eros is not what Jesus is talking about today. Neither is He talking about the word 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, uncles, moms, dads and grandparents 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’s phileo. And this one may sound familiar too. Ever heard of Phila-delphia? 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’s 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 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 bonding-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 know this word for love; this is the word, agape. This is the word that speaks of selfless love; this word describes love that is the opposite of self-seeking. This is love that seeks the best for the other. This is 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 is a good picture of the love we’re talking about.
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 solely 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 aloud 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 comes within 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 is needed for the other. Agape love is love in action. It’s not 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’s not defined by emotions. Agape love is what Christ commands in vs 35. 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 the grave only after that work of full and complete atonement is done, finished and accomplished. Until then Jesus doesn’t stop acting in love. And after His resurrection He continues to act in agape. And today we are given the command to do likewise. Not that we can redeem the world, that’s ridiculous.
But we’re given the order to love one another as Christ has loved us. That means action, movement, going, doing, participation. 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 to 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 agape toward fellow believers.
I saw two examples of this in our congregation just on Friday. One was how the women came together to celebrate Desiree’s upcoming wedding. This was an act of love done for the benefit of that particular someone our congregation has embraced in love.
And the second act of love was watching Hank mowing the grass here. Again, he was doing love. He was acting for the benefit of the rest of us, in love. Both of these were acts of ‘foot-washing’ of sorts. They were doing to benefit others, not the giver. Jesus says that in this way the world will take notice and will know that we are His.
Agape is the badge of the disciple, of the follower, of the man 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 identity we bear. It’s that, which makes us different as we leave here today. This is the self-sacrifice that Christ shows 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 leading people away from God and toward death and hell. That’s where the devil wants us to take people by selfishness and sin.
But in the doing of 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. As we follow 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 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 reflect, imitate, and witness to our risen, living Lord Jesus Christ, or we don’t. We don’t act that way to earn His agape-love, which is impossible, but rather we do that to reflect His love which is poured into us through baptism and by His Holy Spirit.
What you do with that love is your choice. You know now you are given agape love by God and so you are now different. That He loves you is beyond your choosing, because He has already chosen you; He has chosen to agape 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 #1028 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.”