Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter (B)
May 17, 2009
Text: John 15:9-17

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

Jesus of Nazareth is love incarnate. He is love in the flesh. If you want a definition of true love, the purest love, the very love of God, you have it right here in the Scriptures, in the Gospels, in the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and continual reign of our Lord Jesus Christ. For “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13; ESV). Jesus lays down His life for us, whom He has chosen to call friends. Greater love has no man than the love that Jesus Christ has for us for whom He shed His holy precious blood and gave His life into death on the cross. Luther writes of this great love:

"That is called a great, powerful love if a man gives to another in his misfortune a
hundred or a thousand dollars, or pays all his debts for him; but how great would
that be if a king or a prince would give to a poor beggar a duchy or principality,
yea, even his own kingdom or land and people? There the whole world would sing
and say of unheard-of love. But that is only a small matter when compared with
this, that Christ gives His life and body for thee, which is indeed the highest love
that any man on earth can show to another; for to serve with money and goods,
yea, also with the body, is also called loving. But there is none that would not
much rather give his money and goods, yea, his land and people, than that he
should die for another; and if he did it, it would be nothing beside the fact that
God’s Son comes down from heaven and steps forth in thy place, and willingly
sheds His blood and dies, though thou hast been His enemy and a condemned
person. That is the love which is much greater and higher than heaven and earth
and everything that might be named."[1]

Such great love has our Lord Christ for you! He died for you! He lives for you! All of this He has done for the forgiveness of your sins, that you might have peace with God, a loving Father, His own good Spirit, eternal life and salvation, heaven, and the resurrection. And along with this, He gives you to love with His own love, with agape love. He gives you to love your neighbor and your neighbor to love you, that you might serve one another in that love. This is your Christian calling. The love of God in Jesus Christ flows from His gifts to you, through you, to your neighbor. Thus Jesus gives His new commandment: “that you love one another as I have loved you” (v. 12), that you love one another with the very love of Christ Jesus.

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God’s love is the source of our love. Remember what Jesus taught us last week, that He is true Vine, and we are the branches, and apart from Him we can do nothing. Apart from Jesus and His love, we cannot love either. Abiding in the love of Jesus is the same as abiding in Jesus Himself. The two go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. If you abide in Jesus, you abide in His love. That is to say, if you abide in Jesus, and you do this by His grace coming to you in Word and Sacrament, you have the full benefits of His great love for you, the love that led Him to the cross to die for you, the love in which He calls you, once an enemy of God and of His Son, friend. And if you abide in the love of Christ in this way, you will also not be stingy with that love to others. The love of Christ is not, can never be, selfishly hoarded. It will always flow through the Christian to the neighbor. It is meant to be shared, given, poured out freely and generously for the sake of the other. And just as Christ’s love is given to you without any merit or worthiness in you, wholly by grace, so also the love of Christ that flows through you to your neighbor you give without any merit or worthiness in him. Your neighbor does not have to earn this love any more than you have to earn it from Jesus. It is a free thing. And you can give it generously, even recklessly, because it is impossible to exhaust the supply of Christ’s love. It is not as if Christ is a bucket filled with love, that you can pour it out and so empty its contents.[2] Our Lord Christ is a bottomless spring welling up with love, and you are His pipe, that His love may flow through you to its intended recipient, and so bless you both. You will never be without a supply of this love no matter how much of it you pour. The more you pour, the more will flow through you. And there is always more and more.

So you are well supplied with the love of Christ, given to you by grace, and this love overflows with good works that benefit your neighbor. In the great love chapter of the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13, St. Paul tells us what are the characteristics of such love. It is patient. It is kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It never fails. Now of course, this is not a description of your human love. This is a description of the love of Jesus Christ! We could substitute the Name Jesus for the word love in 1 Corinthians 13, and it would still be a perfect description. This would not be true if we substituted our own names. But we Christians are given to make a beginning of loving with this kind of love. We are given, by God’s grace, His Spirit being active in us, to make a beginning of loving our neighbor in this way, with this love, the love of Christ Jesus flowing through us for the benefit of others. As I have loved you, so you love one another, Jesus commands. He’s describing the Christian life. Give yourselves for one another. Lay down your life for another. The love of Jesus Christ gives of the self, confident that, abiding in the love of Jesus, the self can never be exhausted, because Jesus keeps filling it up with Himself. So now you can give yourself for the sake of your neighbor.

What does this mean concretely? It means that when you see your neighbor in need, you can help him. You can give of your resources, your time, your physical labor, your money, your very life if need be, for your neighbor in need. You can be reckless with what is yours for the sake of your neighbor, knowing that your treasure is in heaven. When your neighbor is hungry, feed him, and when he is thirsty, give him to drink, even when the grocery budget it tight in your own house. When he is naked, clothe him, even when you can’t afford to keep up with the latest fashion yourself. When your neighbor is sick or in prison, visit him, even if you’re afraid of germs and the slamming of iron bars makes you claustrophobic. And by all means, whenever possible and to the greatest extent, defend your neighbor and put the best construction on all of his actions. Be patient with him. Be kind to him. Put his interests ahead of your own and consider him better than yourself. Do not rejoice in his misfortune. Rather, weep with him when he weeps, and rejoice with him when he rejoices. These are the concrete expressions of Christian love.

Most of all, tell your neighbor about the source of your love, the perfect love of which your imitation is only a beginning. Tell your neighbor about the love of Jesus Christ, that this love is for your neighbor, that it flows freely to your neighbor, that Jesus loves your neighbor with an everlasting love, and that this love led Jesus to the cross for your neighbor, for the forgiveness of all of your neighbor’s sins, that your neighbor, too, might have eternal life. Christian love is certainly concerned with the physical well-being of the neighbor. Even more, Christian love, is concerned with the eternal well-being of the neighbor. Abiding in the love of Jesus, you can confidently and boldly give of yourself to confess Christ to your neighbor and tell him of the salvation given by no other name. Concretely this means praying for your neighbor and having actual conversations about Jesus with actual people. And it means giving of your time, your resources, your money, to support the mission of this congregation and the Church at large. These are the good works done in love for the sake of your neighbor.

Now of course, none of this is done in order to be saved. Christ already took care of all of that on the cross. Remember, He first loved us by giving Himself into death on the cross for our forgiveness and redemption. We are already loved by Him. Salvation is already ours. It is because this is already the case that we are able to give ourselves in such love. And even this ability to give the self, though it is only the beginning of such self-giving love, is a gift of God’s grace. For without Christ you can do nothing. But whoever abides in Christ, and Christ in him, the same it is that bears much fruit. Whoever abides in Christ and Christ in him, whoever abides in His love, the same it is who loves much. And in such love there is much joy. For we are confident that Love Incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ, has chosen us before the foundation of the world, called us His friends, and laid down His life for us. There is no greater love. And His love for us means nothing less than life everlasting, basking in the everlasting love of God. You already bask in it, by the way. Love Incarnate dwells in you and you in Him in Holy Baptism. He speaks to you in the Word. And Love Incarnate is bodily present here for you on the altar, to be placed in your mouths, self-giving love crucified and risen again, poured out for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

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

[1] Quoted in Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: New Testament Volume I (St. Louis: Concordia, n.d.) p. 495.
[2] Many thanks to the Rev. Mark Love for this illustration.

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