Church Sermon Sunday
Dreghorn and Springside Church, Sunday 9th May 2021
Bible reading: John 15: 9-17
I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13 The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14 And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another.
Sermon “love one another”
The Christian author William Bausch shares a prayer, it goes like this: I asked God to take away my pride. And God said no. He said it was not for him to take away but for me to give up. I asked God to make my handicapped child whole and God said no. He said such spirits as whole. Her body is only temporary. I asked God to grant me patience. And God said no. He said that patience is a by-product of tribulation. It was it isn't granted. It is earned. I asked God to give me happiness. And God said no. He said he gives blessings. Happiness is up to me. I asked God to spare me pain. And God said no. He said suffering draws you apart from worldly care and brings you closer to him. I asked God to make my spirit grow. But he said no. He said they must grow on my own. But I will be in heaven someday because I believe. I ask God to help me love others as much as he loves me. God said “Ah, at last. You finally have that idea”.
Last week sermon focused on what it means to have a fruitful faith and finished with an encouragement to work out what that might look like in our own lives. This week we see what it looks like, it looks an awful lot like love. The Bible reading today is John 15:9-17. This is a passage that is frequently read at Remembrance Services and is shoehorned and sometimes misshapen into that theme, today my prayer is that it can be released and enabled to breathe and grow and be appreciated from a different perspective.
A preacher was called to a new congregation and chose this as the first reading for her first Sunday. She stood up to preach and said, “love one other”. Then she sat back down. Most eyebrows were raised at this point, but the congregation gave her the benefit of the doubt. “She’s had a busy week”. They said, “must take a lot out of you starting in a new congregation”. And as they left, they smiled politely and said thank you. The next week, she stood up again, cleared her throat and said, “Love one another”, and then sat back down. The eyebrows were a good deal more furrowed that week. But they tried to see the bright side, after all they had lots to be getting on with, and the short sermon certainly opened Sunday to more opportunity. The next week, they could not believe their ears, the same old, “love one another” and there was protest, “What has she doing all week?” “Have we not heard all this before?” “We are being short changed.” And so, members of the congregation queued up at the manse to demand an explanation.
God is Love. God is the source of love and God is the embodiment of love. God expresses God’s self to us in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is deep love between all three. And God created out of love, you were created because God loves you and the fullest expression of you, that you can be is in love returned to God and to others. Love is the basis on which everything else good and true and eternal is built. If we do not have love, we are nothing - as the Apostle Paul reminds us, we can have all the clever sermons and buildings, mission statements and new church plants in the world, but if we have not love, we are but resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.
This is the lesson our new pastor was teaching the congregation – it is the very basis for our life and worship and ministry together. We learn to love - we love God, we love one another, we love our neighbour, and ‘yes’ Jesus even said to love our enemies too - and all else that is eternal follows out from this love.
I will not be as brave as the pastor I’ve spoken of and leave it there. But rather look further to the passage.
In John 15:9-10 Jesus models for us, the Christian community, the kind of loving relationship that we must have. We are to be a community based on obedience to God’s commandments and on mutual self-giving. In the same way that Jesus kept God’s commands and abided in God’s love, so also, we, the disciples, if we keep Jesus’ commands, will also then abide in his love. That is, we will remain attached to Jesus and through Jesus we will remain attached to God.
There are distinct differences in our society, times of national voting show that there are deeply held convictions about the future direction of our country. Some of us in the congregation are nationalists, and some are unionists. We are called to put these secondary politics behind us, we are first and foremost, regardless of our constitutional views, we are first and foremost Christ’s, who calls us to remain in his love and to love one another.
There are many expressions of the Christian family, there are Reformed – like we are in the Church of Scotland and there are Catholic, there are Baptist and Anglican and Methodist and Orthodox, to name but some. We are called to put these secondary identifiers behind us, we are first and foremost, regardless of what church we attend, we are first and foremost Christ’s, who calls us to remain in his love and to love one another.
When we get back together, which I hope will be as soon as is reasonably practicable, there will undoubtedly be differences of opinion in our own congregation about the way ahead. Some may take one view and others a completely different one. We are called to put these secondary things behind us, we are first and foremost Christ’s, who calls us to remain in his love and to love one another.
Indeed, if we do not have God’s love in us, we are nothing, we are no different from the world and it will fade away. And to go one quoting from 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
The faithful and enduring love that God showed towards Jesus, Jesus then showed toward his disciples, so in turn we could show it towards one other. When we love in this way, our love becomes impregnated with divine quality. It is not just an emotional, cosy feeling, but a conscious decision to put yourself on the line, even to die to yourself and your own agenda, so that others might live and flourish.
A number of years ago, the Church of Scotland produced a report on growing churches and a main finding is, to quote from the report, ‘It should be no surprise to us that growing churches are characterised by their love for God and their love for one another!’ (Panel on Review and Reform, May 2015)
Jesus makes this a command, he says ‘love one another as I have loved you’. And the love that Jesus has shown us, that we are commanded to be - is not a selfish love, but a self-giving love, it is a love lived beyond oneself for the sake of the other. It is a sacrificial way of living that encourages and enables others to reach their full potential, to be all that they can be. And that ultimately means being at one with God - who brings joy to our hearts.
9th May 2021