Saturday, June 1, 2019

Fr. Phil in Loveland: "Figuring out what "as" is

May 19, 2019
St Peter's, Loveland CO
Fr.  Phil Eberhart 

Figuring out what "as" is!

Jn 13:34-35

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you,  that you love each other in that way.  If you love each other that way everyone will know that you are my disciples!"

Good morning and greetings from REZ in Greenwood Village CO.   Today we're playing musical priests!   Fr Michael from Cheyenne is attending his daughter's college graduation in Grand Junction so Fr. Edward is preaching for him.   I heard of the arrangement a couple weeks back and asked for the opportunity to supply here.   I'm afraid we'll have to still do another pulpit exchange sometime because our folks at Rez are needing a Fr Ed sermon fix pretty badly!   So we'll plan another time after all the summer trips and Provincial falderal! 

Happily,  this morning's gospel is one of those nutshell gospel readings that takes a lifetime to really do. 

I've called this sermon,  "Figuring out what "as" is."

Jesus said this is a new commandment. 
But we all know the old one... "Love God with all your heart,  soul,  mind and strength... and your neighbor as yourself. "  in fact we call it The GREAT Commandment!

Here, once again,  Jesus ups the ante!

He takes an Old Testament law and brings it into our lives with even more potency and vigor.   It's no longer adequate to just love your neighbor in any ol' way,  but now AS I have loved you. 

So now we need to figure out was AS is, what it means to love AS Jesus loves.  Seems like a pretty tall order! 

There's a prayer that we at Rez memorized some years back from the prayerbook... 

"Lord Jesus Christ,  You stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of Your saving embrace;  So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love may bring those who do not know You to the knowledge and love of you,  for the honor of your Name.   Amen"

Seems to capture the essence of this new commandment!   Jesus outstretched arms,  a symbol of God's unfailing,  everlasting love.   That there is a "saving embrace" for each and every one of us... and for all who will receive such an embrace! 

If you love each other in the same way I love you... the whole world will know... they'll sit up and take notice!  Love is God's program of evangelism!  It's plan A and there is no plan B!

The Apostle John is renowned for his insistence that we love one another!  Outside of the writings of John there are only three other references that use that phrase in the New Testament.   John uses those exact words 9 times!  Do you think there may be a point coming here? 

Our gospel this morning is the New Command and Jesus says it twice more just in the discourse of that last night! 
And John picks it up in his letters and reiterates it 6 more times!   Kind of like a broken record, huh?   Why,  because we need to hear it that often in order to get it! 

It's said that the Apostle in his old age would sit in the midst of the churches and say,  "Little Children,  Love one Another! "  when asked why that was what he said so often he replied,  "Because if you DO it, it's enough!"

If you do it,  it's enough! 

I want to wrap up with two observations...

First,  in the midst of Jesus agony on the cross there is a moment where he released the unfailing love of the Father over us who crucified Him.  Any one know when that was? 

"Father,  forgive them,  for they know not what they do. "

In those words Jesus pronounced the Love of God over all of us,  over all who had gone before and over all who will come after us!   Henri Nouwen was once heard to comment that "Forgiveness is the name of love among those of us who love poorly!"

Jesus loved profoundly and lived that love out to the death.   He said,  "Greater love hath no man than this,  to lay down his life for his friends."  We laid to rest this week in Denver a young man who exemplified this kind of self-sacrificing love for friends... a young man named Kenrick.  The only son of his parents laid down his life to save the lives of his friends.   

Lord,  let us live such lives!   Because if we do,  all around us will know by experience the love of God the Father! 
We don't have to die physically,  but we have to die to self!

I got to preach my daughter's wedding a couple weeks ago.  From 1 Cor 13, verses we're all familiar with bear well on this subject.   The love of Jesus was a perfect love.  I challenged the bride and groom to use those verses like a recipe for life. I challenge us today to live a life of love in this way,  in the Jesus Way...

Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else . Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 TPT

I told Aly and Jenny to consider the words we just heard as their recipe for a long and happy married life.  There's a good mix of real character, of long-suffering generosity... of never-flagging  hope...   and some gracious bull-headed-ness will make something that is both sweet to the taste and good for you and for the world around you. 

The same is true of each of us,  in our homes,  our relationships,  our business acquaintances,  our day to day contacts in the course of every day life! 

Make sure you have all the ingredients!
 > Patience with each other...
 > Kindness in your voice and
> Gentleness in your manner...
> No jealousy or puffed-up pride or self- aggrandizement.  Never "me first!"
 > Trash the shame and disrespect we so often use as weapons. 
 > Put your spouse first,  ... always. Period.
>  No irritability or taking offense now,  you're giving up those rights! 
> No delight when someone else "gets what's coming to them"
> instead,  celebrate honesty... be someone else's safe place... believe the best not the worst...
 > if the other falls,  pick them up... falling is a part of life, but failure need not be. 

This is what the AS is!   Love never fails because love never quits! 

Let's pray...

"Lord Jesus Christ,  You stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of Your saving embrace;  So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love may bring those who do not know You to the knowledge and love of you,  for the honor of your Name.   Amen"