Deacon Ben Remmert
Acts 11:1-18 Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 John 13: 31-3
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s message could not be any clearer today, we are going to talk about love. You have probably heard a lot of preachers in a lot of different churches preach on this topic. In fact, Jesus in today’s Gospel reading gives us a commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” On the surface, it seems simple. Yet, at the same time, we have so much pain and hurt in our community that is caused by our lack of love to our neighbor. So this morning, let’s get into our text to understand the topics of love and glory, according to Jesus Christ.
Jesus is telling His disciples, and you and me today, in our Gospel reading “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” Just in those two verses alone, Jesus uses the word “love” 4 times. It’s a short word, 4 letters long, it’s a word that many of us use daily. It sounds simple: “love others as I have loved you.” And yet, that phrase has been abused quite frequently.
That’s because when we hear that word “love”, we start to think of love in worldly terms. Think about what our world today considers “love.” For starters, love is a vague word. It can cover so many types of relationships. We often use it to describe our feelings toward our spouses, our children, our friends, our church, our community, or even our favorite foods. You must listen to the context to understand what kind of “love” is being talked about. For example, most people are going to understand that your love for your spouse is going to be a different kind of love than you have for your favorite food (at least I hope that’s the case.) But not only that, but your love for your spouse is probably going to differ from the love you have for your children, your parents, or your friends. On the surface, love seems simple. Yet, at the same time, this is one passage that, when misunderstood, can lead to all kinds of problems.
The other thing we have to remember about love when it comes to our relationships with other people is that the world has its own idea of what is and is not considered “loving.” If you want the world’s definition of love, listen to a lot of the music today. There’s a lot being said about love in a lot of those songs. In fact, Tina Turner even had a hit song that asked the question “What’s Love got to Do with It?” Movies and television have something to say about love, too, along with those paperback romance novels and all kinds of shows, plays, and other media that we stream. And what are all those things saying about love? Our world is defining love as being a self-serving kind of love. “Love is true when it suits you” would probably be a nice catchy slogan. Our world looks at love as satisfying one’s own needs and desires through having someone else serve them. And it’s great for a while. You feel great, everything seems to smell like roses, and nothing can ever seem to go wrong. That’s what all that stuff out in the world tells us about love. How many of our stories that we watch, listen to, or read end with the couple madly in love with each other riding off into the sunset to “live happily ever after” without having to endure any hardships or problems later on that will test their so-called “love” for each other? With this definition of love, what happens when that person you claim to “love” no longer suits your needs, or you find someone else who you think might be a better “fit” and you think you love that person instead? Or what happens when you lose that euphoric “spark” and things go back to normal?
Love according to the world is also used as leverage to try to get what we want out of other people. How many times have we heard the phrase “If you really love me, you’ll do this.” It’s a very conditional type of love. And what happens when our conditions aren’t being met? The world encourages us to just terminate that “love” and move on to someone else. It’s a kind of love that leaves a lot of hurt, broken people in its path.
Now if that’s the kind of love that Jesus is telling us to have for one another, we’re going to have a pretty serious problem on our hands, aren’t we? But you see, Jesus’ definition of love doesn’t depend on us and how we sinful human beings treat each other. Jesus tells us “love one another as I have loved you.” How has Jesus loved us?
Jesus has just shared the Passover meal with His disciples in our Gospel reading. He’s washed their feet, showing His humility in serving them. It will only be a matter of hours before Judas returns, with a group of soldiers to arrest and charge with crimes he did not commit. He allows Himself to be whipped, beaten, mocked, and spit upon. He’ll soon be sentenced to death and forced to carry the instrument of His own execution. And why does He do all of that? Is it for Himself? No. It’s for the disciples, it is for all people. It’s for you and me and everyone before us and after us. It’s how He shows His great love for all of us by taking our place and suffering the punishment we deserve. This is what the Greeks would call “Agape”, an unconditional love. A love that says “I’m going to love that person anyway, no matter what it costs me.” He had spent the last three years of His life teaching the disciples, and anyone who would hear, warning them to stay away from their sin and repent. And for those who were truly repentant, Jesus had such love for them that He was going to suffer and die for them so that they could be forgiven, and set free from their sin to love God and others, and they had first been loved by Christ.
In a way, it’s appropriate that this discussion happens just after Jesus institutes the Sacrament of Holy Communion. That night, He gives them a new supper, a way to give His disciples a very real, personal reminder of His love for them. “Take, eat, this is my body. Take, drink, this is my blood, given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of all your sins.” In a few moments this morning, you are going to hear those same words spoken to you at this altar. Although in the eyes of the world, what is going to take place here will seem rather ordinary, you know that your Savior is here, through the means of His Word, bread, and wine, to say to repentant sinners like you and I today “Take this and eat it, take this, and drink it. This is my body and blood that I gave up. It is not for me to show you how great I am and how lowly you are, but to forgive you of all your sins. And when I say that you’re forgiven, I mean that. I don’t remember you sin any longer. I won’t hold it against you later. My love for you is unconditional. For those of you who are hurting, wondering if anyone could love you, I do. I died for you. I’ve risen for you. And I’m forgiving you all your sins.”
And you and I, the people of God here at Christ the King Church, when we leave here today, we leave here with a charge in our daily lives: “Love one another just as Christ has loved you.” That means whoever should come into your life, you love them as Christ loved you. It means that anyone who walks into your life is a person whom Christ has died for. It means that where they are sorry for their sins, wondering if anyone can love them after the things that they have done, we point them to the cross, where there is a Savior who with arms stretched out wide, says “this is how much I love you.”
And for those who have been burned in the past, who bear the scars of their sins, we are to lovingly point them to Christ, and show them the love He first had for us. We are to forgive them, we are to love them, and we are to welcome them into our midst. We join them at this altar, where our Savior reminds us of His love again and again. But it’s not just for “those people”. It’s for you and me too. For the times where we haven’t always loved others with the unconditional love that Christ has for us, God still loves us. God still forgives us, cleanses us, and mends our broken hearts. God still comes to us today through humble means of grace to restore us so that we may be God’s presence in the lives of all the world.
Christ’s great love for us and the world and the way God goes about declaring it to us is not going to look glorious in the eyes of the world. It’s not going to feel like the “love” that our world wants us to believe will fulfill our lives. But the love that Jesus the Christ has for us, His unconditional love, his self-sacrificial love, is a love that is beyond anything we can ever find out there. It’s a love that mends broken hearts. It’s a love that makes those who are “unlovable” in the eyes of the world into the most beloved in the eyes of Christ. It’s the love that Christ has for you, and for me. Confirmation Class of 2022, you are about to affirm the baptismal promises that your family made for you when you were baptized. As you come here to profess your faith and remember your baptism, remember the love that God has for each of you. This calling to love as Christ loves will not be an easy task, but thanks be to God that we do this work together. We look forward to seeing you continue in your calling from baptism as you live among us hearing Gods word and sharing in the Lord’s supper, proclaiming Christ’s love through word and deed, and strive for justice and peace in all the world. Amen!