“If you Love!”
John 14: 15-21, May 17th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words, taken from the Gospel According to John, chapter fourteen, verses fifteen thru twenty-one.”
15 ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This 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. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They 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.”
“Having listened with our ears, let us now open our hearts to the depth of love being witnessed to within this writing.”
“If you Love!”
Have you ever found yourself questioning your priorities these past two months? Really, think about it. What were the most important things in your life back in the first week of March, a little over two months ago? Have those priorities changed? Of course, we know that there have been changes in our day to day activities! Everyone I know, has had to rearrange their lives in some fashion or another! Even those who have been able to continue their fulltime jobs through all this, have had to adjust to new realities. Many of course have had to learn how to work from home; some love the change while others long for their office routines. Millions have had to adjust to no job, no unemployment benefits, no stimulus checks and their struggles for the basics, food for the family, and the harsh reality of paying the rent or paying the mortgage – these have become huge! Thankfully, a great many Americans have a job or retirement incomes and they have received the government funded stimulus check or are simply doing great without them. Thank God we have a solid group of Americans that are financially stable. These realities point to the new focus for many of us for sure. But, have our core priorities changed?
It is important we realize that priorities, the main concerns we each have are made based on our core beliefs. If you believe in the rights of your neighbors, as well as your own, these core principle of your character have not changed! Based on your fundamental value system you are most certainly still focused on your positive and optimistic attitudes, your beliefs of right and wrong. If this describes you, thank God! Stable folks like yourselves are needed. Now, as life’s realities have changed for so many of our neighbors, here locally, statewide and throughout our country, and the world, we each need to continue digging deep into our belief systems to endeavor to do what we can for others. I know that I am preaching to the backbone of this congregation; as you have continued to support, this your church with your love… through your support financially, and your continuing prayers. Several of you are actively able to continue your gifts of time and talent as we continue to care for our facility here and our expansive campus. Many others of you who are involved in church leadership are gathering in small safe groups or in virtual ‘on-line’ meetings to keep us focused, not only on day-today priorities, but ongoing discussions… planning for the future, which will soon arrive! Plans that include broadcasting to those who have joined us through these our weekly on-line services, while simultaneously opening our sanctuary and worshipping together here in our lovely worship center. That day is coming, and soon we will advise everyone of that upcoming event!
As we pay heed to the words of Jesus, words which are recorded in the gospel of John. Today’s lesson begins with these words attributed to Jesus. ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” /John 14:15/ As we dig into the implications of this statement, let us take a moment to reflect on what it means to Love God, by looking as some things folks like you and me, can easily identify. Americans, as a group, we love ice cream! Especially if it is creamy and sweet. If it has some chocolate or caramel in it – all the better! You love ice cream too, don’t you? Ok, Ok, some of you may not, but it is easy to assume we all have a favorite something, which we truly love! Likewise, a large group of us for sure, we each have our favorite restaurants and love going to enjoy a favorite meal and perhaps seeing our favorite waitress or waiter. Some of us may simply love to go shopping, and not just for the things we need. How about a new outfit or a new pair of fancy shoes or your favorite sandals? Many of us folks living near the inlet and the ocean love to go fishing and boating, or both. Judging by the excitement at having the beaches beginning to open-up again, I think a whole lot of us enjoy every aspect of going to the beach! What are some of the people, places, and things you love? Let us make a list! Once we expand this extensive list, which surely, we all could comprise, we may want to think about how we can step outside ourselves, our personal joys, and consider how we show and express our love.
Keeping our conversation aligned with the words of Jesus, let us keep our hearts open to how we can love different foods, and activities and still obey the commandments which Jesus refers to! With this thought in mind, let us consider our simple examples. Remember, they are meant to only be the start of our personal and possibly, the common list of our loves, our favorites list. Using this as a starting point, let us consider how we might show some self-control on how much ice cream, chocolate, and such we consume. We may want to be sure we are exercising restraint or perhaps being more generous with how we share such delicious treats and scrumptious deserts! When it comes to our love of eating out, we may want to consider the plight of waiters and waitresses over these last two months. They probably could really use a most generous tip at your next dining adventure; especially now as some of these restaurants are beginning the process of reopening their dining areas! Also, we may want to invite a friend or relative to join us, for they too, have been staying at home. How can we express our loving appreciation for these retailers that have been forced to close… as they too start the process of perhaps opening-up to customers within their stores? Perhaps social distancing and face masks will be considered a compassionate and ‘loving action’ while in these places of business; certainly, it would be the thoughtful thing to do!
Let us talk about the beaches for a moment. A great many of us love the beach. Yet, is it prudent to immediately go from closed beaches to crowed beaches… with a seemingly lack of respect for others through some prudent social distancing? Is it? An expression of love while boating and fishing, might be that we ‘not get reckless out there! Surely the list of things we need to be prudent about, or concerned about for the safety, the needs of others – is long. Those of you that enjoy these sports can certainly speak to this better than I. The point being, let us not make it all about ourselves. When we show disrespect for the rules of safety and common sense, we are not showing a consideration for the sport or for others who surely love these sporting activities as well! Let us be conscious of caring about and caring for the fullness and longevity of these activities, for ourselves and for others, who also want to enjoy these sports. Conversely, when we do show awareness of the needs of others around us, we are expressing an act of compassion and concern for our neighbors, this is ultimately an act of unselfish love. There are so many other things on our lists, that we can love, of this we can be sure. Let us consider how we express ourselves as we pursue them, while considering how we might give something back to preserve the integrity of that event, place or persons involved.
Surely, Jesus was taking his thought beyond how we show respect for God’s Creation and our compassion for one another! If we love something, then we need to honor that love with our actions! Clearly, many of you love this our church and you show your love by supporting it in word and in deed. Thank you for that expression of love. Let us now take this a step further. Take a moment to think about those you love, perhaps a spouse, children, grandchildren, and the possible list extends infinitely! Now consider how you express that love. The measurement of love is in the heart. Think of the gifts you have received, the ‘really’ special ones. Sure, a fancy car would make a great gift, but not necessarily. Think of the gift you got from someone who could not afford to buy you such a gift. Say a grandchild that draws you a special picture with the word L O V E sprawled out at the bottom, with an attempt to write their own name. The child hands it to you smiling from ‘ear to ear’ and when you accept the drawing and say how special it is and offer them a hug… Well, you know, and I know that such a moment is priceless! This is the kind of love we are talking about!
When we show true love, such as a child might express to a parent or grandparent, it is special. Take that form of expressing love and offer it to your Creator God. This is what Jesus is talking about! As a child grows to maturity, they learn that love is more than a word and more than a simple hug. Love is expressed in how we live our lives. In relationships, love is expressed in how we show our gratitude and appreciation for the other’s love – for us. Jesus was clearly saying to the early disciples: “If you love me, show it by following the guidelines I have laid out for you.” /John 14:15, adapted/ You and I, we do this when we strive to follow the commandments, especially the ones Jesus lifted-up as the most important ones. “He said to them ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” /Matthew 22:37/ Then Jesus continued by saying “And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” /Matthew 22:39b/ In summary Jesus proclaimed for all to hear: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” / Matthew 22:40/
As the passage draws to its close we hear Jesus expressing that he will soon leave (referring to his death) but then assures us that he is sending an Advocate (which is his reference to the Holy Spirit, that we shall discuss on May 31st, Pentecost Sunday.) And in conclusion Jesus sums it all up: “If we love him and follow his guidance we shall be loved and received by his Heavenly Father.” /Matthew 22: 18-21/ With this lesson in our hearts, let us be sure our priorities are in order, thereby upholding and clinging to our core values: our love of God, in all times and in all places, which is reflected in our daily actions.