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 13, 2012

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter (B)


May 13, 2012

Text: John 15:9-17

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

Beloved in the Lord, the holy Christian Church is a family. This congregation is a family. God is our Father, as we say every time we gather for the family prayer. He is our Father through Jesus Christ, His Son, our Savior. We are one family in the unity of the Holy Spirit. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. The holy Christian Church is a family. This congregation is a family. We’re a family, and you may find this fact heartwarming. On the other hand, we’re a family… whether you like or not. Families love each other. But every family has its dysfunction. There are disagreements and all-out brawls in families. There is almost always a crazy uncle or two. There are patriarchs and matriarchs, and there are many children, some better behaved than others. Many families have a hard time overcoming the obstacles and holding it all together. Because families are made up of sinners who, guaranteed, will and do sin against one another. If a family is to “work,” if a family is to “succeed,” it must be held together by love; love, not defined as a warm and fuzzy feeling, but as a willing commitment on the part of the one loving to love the other members of the family regardless of their worthiness of that love. That is how God loves. That is how Jesus Christ loves us. He does not love on the basis of our merit or worthiness. In our sin, we simply aren’t loveable. God loves us anyway. He has decided that it is so. He has made the commitment, sealed with Jesus’ blood shed on the cross to purchase us for Himself and cover our sins. He has made the commitment to love us, and He will not change His mind. We’re family. His family. Because He says so.

“Love” is the key word in our text this morning. Agape in Greek, selfless, self-sacrificing love, love of which only God is really capable. This is the Love that became man, Jesus Christ, to lay down His life for us, and to take it up again in His resurrection from the dead. For “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13; ESV). This is the love Jesus has for us. It is first of all the love that the Father has for the Son. It is a love that flows through the Son to those who believe in the Son, His disciples, you, beloved. Such love can only come from God. Because we are incapable of selfless and self-sacrificing love in this fallen flesh. No, this love does not have its source in us, but in the Father, who has begotten the Son from all eternity. What great love the Father has for the Son, and yet, for our sakes, the Father gives the Son into death. Can you imagine it? The greatest love that there is, the love of the Father for the Son, the love by which all other love is measured and defined, is given in sacrifice to rescue you.

That is the love in which Jesus bids you abide. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (v. 9). Jesus loves you. Jesus gives Himself willingly for you. He bids you abide, remain, bask in His redeeming love. To abide in Jesus’ love means to receive it in His Word, to receive it in Baptism, to receive it in the Supper. It means to listen to what He says, to be taught by Him, to learn His commandments, all things whatsoever He has taught (Matt. 28:19-20), as a good disciple, and put them into practice. That is what He means when He says “keep my commandments” (John 15:10). To keep the commandments is not simply to do them slavishly, but to learn them by heart, to meditate on them, to hold them as precious, and to put them into practice. Because you love the Savior who so greatly loves you. It is a mark of the Son’s love for the Father that He does what the Father commands. He delights in the Father’s will, even though that divine will means suffering and death for the Son. So also for you. It is a mark of your love for Jesus and for the Father and the Holy Spirit that you do what God commands. You delight in the Father’s will. It grieves you deeply when you fall short. You repent and cast yourself upon Jesus for forgiveness and for strength to amend your sinful life and do better. You abide in Jesus’ love by daily repentance and faith in Him for the forgiveness of sins. You abide in Jesus’ love by living in the death and resurrection of your Baptism. Jesus says that in this way the joy that is in Him will also be in you (v. 11). And that joy, beloved, will be full, complete, in the fullness of God.

So God has drawn us into His family by the love He has for us in Christ Jesus. We are born into the family in baptismal water, a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). We carry the family Name with us, the Name of Jesus, Christian (little Christ), or, the full title, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God’s Name is on us. We belong to Him. But so also we belong to one another. And this is where the whole thing gets messy. Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (v. 12). That’s a tall order to fill. That means that we should lay down our lives for one another. That means that we should love one another even when the one we love doesn’t deserve it, even rejects it. We should forgive our brother when he sins against us. We should be patient and longsuffering, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, even to those who are faithless to us. We’d like to love like that. But our sinful flesh gets in the way. We just don’t have that kind of love in us. And that’s the point. This love cannot come from you. You won’t find it anywhere inside you, not even in the depths of your heart (those black, murky, slimy depths). This love can only come from God. This is the love of the Father for the Son, the love of God for you. This is the love that flows from the Father, to the Son, in the Spirit, and in the Spirit, from the Son, to you, and through you, to your neighbor. The only hope for you to love one another as Jesus commands is if that love comes from God Himself. And it does. It is poured out upon you in the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, from the ever-flowing spring of God’s love, so that it overflows in you and is spilled out in love and good works for the benefit of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus calls you friends. Jesus calls you into His family, the Church. He lets you in on the family business. He reveals to you what He hears from the Father (v. 15). Now, just like your earthly family, into which you were born by God’s free choice, without any participation on your part, so also with God’s family. You did not choose Him. You did not make your decision for Jesus. He chose you (v. 16). He chose you to be His disciple, His friend, His brother. He brought you into the family by Baptism. And He has work for you to do in the family business. He wants you to bear fruit. He wants you to love your brothers and sisters in the Christian Church, warts and all. He wants you to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the fulfilling of the Law (Rom. 13:10). You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). Pray to God. Pray for each other. Work in love for each other. Forgive one another. Live in unity. Serve one another. Build one another up in the holy faith of Jesus Christ. Rejoice with the one who rejoices. Grieve with the one who grieves. Be there for each other, really and truly, be present. Visit the sick and the widow and the orphan. When someone is in the hospital, go see them. When someone dies, if you can come to the funeral, come, and love those who grieve. When someone has a need and you can fulfill it, fulfill it. Let us not love only in word or in talk, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). Because we can. Because it is the love of God that has been poured out upon us in Christ, a love that never dries up, never runs out, a love that the more we give of it, the more we receive of it.

So, dear family of God, this morning we gather around the Christian family Table, the altar where our Lord Jesus distributes His true body and blood into our mouths, the fruit of His cross for our forgiveness. The family that eats this food together, stays together, prays together, serves together, and loves together, because here the love of God in Christ is poured into us from the Cup and binds us in one Holy Communion, the mystical body of Christ. It is as we pray in Luther’s post-Communion collect: God refreshes us through this salutary gift and strengthens us through the same so that we live in faith toward Him and fervent love toward one another, the very love of Jesus Christ our Savior. Abide in that love, beloved, and know without a doubt that He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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