Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me. - John 14:23-24
If you have been a part of our church movement, then you know I talk about love ad nauseum. The reason behind it is simple. The world needs more love. We’ve tried the way of hatred and it has failed us. Maybe it’s time we try something different. So, until love becomes as natural to us as breathing, I’m going to continue to preach about it every chance I get.
We started this church on the founding principle of loving God, loving others, and serving both. This is not an original idea. In fact, some 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostle John wrote these words.
READ John 14:22-27 here
This passage is part of Jesus’ famous farewell discourse. A tough talk our Lord has with his Apostles to prepare them for what was to come. He prepares them for the future by telling them to be mindful of the present. The way they do that is by keeping his words. If they continue to live into his teachings, Jesus assures them that God’s Spirit will always be with them. And wherever God is, so too is peace.
Historians believe this gospel was written sometime between the 80’s-early 90’s of the first century. A time when house churches like ours were popping up all over the Roman Empire. As Jewish Christians were being evicted from their synagogues, the fledgling movement had to find ways to define themselves, while defending themselves from abuse and attack. Jesus knew the best line of defense would be to stand firm in what he had taught them.
What was true way back then, is still true for us today. Empires still exist. People still attack one another in the name of religion. Hatred is still a thing. And the call to love is still our calling.
Jesus knows that even if the world no longer sees him in the flesh, they will see us making his love visible as we live out his words in that space between us and them. And according to John, this means keeping his commandments; washing one another’s feet; loving and serving one another.
Sallie McFague describes the Christian community as “midwives of divinity.” By making the words of Christ our own we are able to give birth to God’s love wherever we are. But here’s the thing. We can’t truly love God unless we love God’s world and all that is in it. The two go hand in hand.
With all the hatred and vitriol infecting our daily lives, it seems we’ve lost this sense of love, at least for our fellow human beings. When these first church communities came into being, love was thought of as “the giving of the self.” Today, it seems too be the opposite. We’re more focused on what we can get instead of what we can give. Jesus makes it very clear that love is the rule for living with God, and the best way to do that …is to live out his words - giving ourselves to one another.
Like I said, Anamesa was founded on the principle to love God, love others, and serve both. To achieve this, we will need the constant presence of God in our midst.
Let us not forget that the same Spirit of God that was given to Jesus himself is also given to us so that we can make God’s love visible just like he did.
Love is Anamesa. Love is how we fill the space between us and them.
Love must be the Spirit by which all that we do is done. Love must be the priority of anyone who claims the name of Christ.
Love is the power that can transform hatred, because wherever there is love, there is God’s healing presence.
Michael Curry describes love as “an action, with force and follow-through…it’s the only thing that has ever changed the world for the better.” Then there was Martin Luther King who said, “I have decided to stick with love because hatred is too great a burden to bear.”
If you need to remember anything from today, may it be this: choose love.
It is extraordinary power that propels us towards doing the work of Christ in the world. We’ve tried hate and it has failed us. Christ showed us, love wins.
If we want to see change in our world, then we must make love the epicenter of life because in the absence of a physically present Christ, it’s still the best way for others to experience and feel the indwelling presence of God’s grace in the flesh.
We are all living in a war zone where hatred, violence, greed, and selfishness breed nothing more than pain and suffering, mass shootings, and the suppression of minorities. In recent years we have seen a rise of racism, nationalism, and xenophobia. People are hurting and hating others because where they’re from or who they love.
Hatred has failed us. It’s time we do something new. It’s time to embrace Jesus’ love ethic. He taught us, by showing us, what complete love is all about – compassion, kindness, and infinite patience. Wherever we show these things, we know that Jesus is there too. Because those who keep his word, He and the Father, “will come to them and makes a home in them.”
Standing before a crowd of prisoners Johnny Cash said, “All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate. I choose love.” We are standing at a crossroad and must decide which way to go.
Will it be the way of Jesus? Or the way of the world? Will we embrace what Jesus taught and make a positive change in our communities? Or will we convince ourselves that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said.
The church has enough hypocrites who say they “keep Jesus’ words” and yet their actions say otherwise. But I think Jesus would agree with me when I say you can’t stand for love, if you continue to support laws and industries that make money off hatred, fear, and violence.
Just as our Lord always put inclusion, justice, kindness, and mercy above his own needs, so to must we do the same for each other – especially for those who have nothing to give in return.
It’s in that space between us and them, we can hear Jesus say, “They will know you belong to me by the way you love one another.”
The world is looking for Christ. Who among us will bring him into being? Canadian poet Rupi Kaur wrote, “To hate is an easy, lazy thing. But to love takes strength everyone has but not all are willing to practice.”
Who among us is willing to take that risk of being hated and rejected by standing in Christlike love? Who among us is willing to leave the center and go to the margins, to be the visible presence of God to those who are suffering and mourning?
We all have the strength to love. But who among us has the faith to act?
This can be a difficult and scary decision. But let us not forget what our Lord said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
Instead let us live in this moment, holding fast the Word of God who has come to us in the flesh, and make this space between a place where God’s heart is open to anyone who wishes to enter.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting On The Word, Year C , Vol. 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009.
Curry, Michael. Love Is The Way: Holding on to hope in troubled times. New York: Avery/Random House, 2020.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”