Monday, May 11, 2015

Easter 6 Sermon: "Abide in My Love"

+ Easter 6 – May 10th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Acts 10:34-48; 1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

How do you abide in Jesus’ love? Do you set up a tent? Hold tight to those warm-fuzzy thoughts? Put your mp3 player on a constant loop playing “Bring back that lovin' feeling”?
But Christian love, God’s divine gift-love is much different. If God’s love for us was simply mushy-gushy feelings, he wouldn’t have gave his only begotten Son to die for you, he would’ve sent us emojis on our iPhones. Thankfully, God’s love for us is not like a teenage girl’s love for My Little Ponies and kittens. It is more than a feeling.

God’s love is action. Jesus feeding thousands. Jesus healing the sick. Jesus casting out demons. Jesus teaching. Jesus praying. Jesus bearing our sin. Jesus laying down his life for sinners. Jesus rising from the dead. This is the way Jesus loves. He gives himself.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

To abide in Jesus’ love is to receive what Jesus gives; and then to give what you have received. This is the pattern.

The Father gives all He is and has to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father, and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too. (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 1-2).
So, follow Jesus’ words downstream. From the Father to the Son (by the Holy Spirit) to you. And from you to others.

Abide in my love, Jesus says.

As the Father loves the Son, so the Son loves you. Don’t skip over this and think, “great…now on to the really important stuff.” No! This is the important stuff. Without God’s love for you in Jesus, nothing else matters.

Abide in my love. Remain. Rest. Dwell. And never depart from Jesus’ self-giving, sacrificial love for you.

This is where “love” begins – not in our hearts, not in our decisions, choices, or our initiative. It begins in the heart of the Father and His love for the beloved Son. It flows to you from the Son by way the cross, the font, the altar, His Word.

I AM the Vine and you are the branches.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

And what does Jesus’ love look like? If you had to draw a picture, how would you illustrate it?

A heart, as in “I heart 90’s grunge rock”?

A diamond ring? How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…one carat, two carats, or three?!

Or since it’s Mother’s Day, perhaps a mother’s love for her child. She quite literally lays down her life to bear, feed, and nurture her child.

Now this is closer to God’s love than the other kinds of love we have: romantic, friendship, or affection. But it’s only a picture. After all, only Jesus’ love is perfect.

Our love – even on our best day – is soiled with sin. The first commandment calls us to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. And yet we fear no one, love only ourselves, and trust no one. “We give our human loves – friendship, romance and sexuality, affection, enjoyment of God’s creation – the unconditional allegiance we owe only to God. Then they become gods: then they become demons. They will destroy us.” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 8) This is not love. This is idolatry. This is what our sin does to God’s love: twists, turns, mangles, and warps it, and the end result is always the same: self-love.

Repent, for we have not loved God with our whole heart; and we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We have not let his love had its way with us and so our love for others has failed.

Where our love is selfish, Jesus’ love is self-giving. Where our love is envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, resentful, irritable, and insistent on our own way, Jesus’s love for you is patient, kind, enduring, and bears all things…yes, even unlovable, loveless, despicable me. God’s love in Jesus, covers the multitude of our loveless sins.

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son as the propitiation for our sins.

For God showed his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus loves the loveless. We who were his enemies, sinners, are now his friends. And according to Jesus the picture he wants us to have of God’s love is his sacrifice. Here is love: Jesus crucified for you.

“God…creates the universe…already seeing the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is hoisted up time after time, for breath’s sake. If we may dare the biological image, God is a ‘host’ who deliberately creates his own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and take advantage of him. Herein is love.” (C.S. Lewis, Four Loves, p. 127). 

So you don’t need to pluck a tulip with misty eyes wondering, “does God love me, does he love me not?”

Look to the font and where Jesus’ love is traced upon you in the cross; where God’s love is poured into your heart by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Look to the altar where Jesus feeds you in love, and gives himself in his body and blood to you. Look to the Scriptures where Jesus’ love for you abides. And wherever you abide in his word – in the Supper, in Confession, in studying and meditating upon his Word, in praying and singing it – you abide in Him, and he abides in you.

These words I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

In fact, it’s more than full. Jesus’ love overflows. Jesus’ sacrificial love bears fruit in our sacrificial love for other. We love because he first loved us. You’re planted in him. Jesus is the Vine you are his branches. And his love will bear fruit in you.

Imagine the look on your neighbor’s face when they see you cleaning the trash off their front yard without even asking for help. Imagine how that homeless man or woman will feel when you offer to buy them some food or give them some extra clothes or water. Imagine how the visitor to Redeemer will feel when you leave your group of friends to welcome them to church and invite them to join you in conversation.
We love by sacrifice. In fact there is no love without sacrifice. We love in word and deed. We love by laying down our lives for others. We love others – not to get something from them or out of their wallet – but to give to them. To serve them.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Love is praying: “Lord, make me a better father, mother, spouse, son, or daughter; make me a faithful servant in all the places you call me.”
Love is praying for your enemies.
Love is asking God to give us patience as we bear with people who are unbearable.
Love is attending to daily devotions and going to confession and absolution, and receiving Holy Communion as often as you can.
Love is looking not to your own good, but the good of your neighbor.
Love is inviting your next door neighbor to hear the Word in church or bible study.
Love is pestering your friends or family to have their children baptized without delay.
Love is asking your brother or sister in Christ how they’re doing and taking the time to listen.
Love is comforting someone who’s grieving with good news of Jesus who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.
Love is writing a card to one of our shut ins or someone you see in the weekly prayer list who’s in need.
Love is telling others the Good News that God loves you in this way: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This is what it means to abide in Jesus’ love: to receive Jesus’ sacrificial love and to give in sacrificial love to others.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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