Devotional Message: The Sixth Sunday of Easter; Year B (5/6/2018)

REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY TEXTS

Acts 10:44-48
Psalm 98
1st John 5:1-6
St. John 15:9-17

Prayer of the Day

O God, you have prepared for those who love you joys beyond understanding. Pour into our hearts such love for you that, loving you above all things, we may obtain your promises, which exceed all we can desire; through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[Jesus said,] 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.“

St. John 15:9-17, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “The Essence of Christian Faith”

You don’t need to possess a PhD in the Social Sciences to notice that our society is badly broken. There is an animosity between people — even between people who have never met — that seems stronger than it has ever been in our lifetime. There is a deep suspicion of anyone who is in a position of power or authority. There is an insistence that anyone who disagrees with me — no matter how minor that disagreement might be — is absolutely wrong. We silo ourselves away in our own perspectives, and look down our noses with dismay and disgust at anyone who doesn’t see it our way. Even long-held friendships have been strained over the choice of a political candidate, views about social constructs, commitments (or lack thereof) to a religious perspective… You don’t need to possess a PhD in the Social Sciences to notice that our society is badly broken.

It is, sometimes, hard to imagine how to change this reality. Yet the words of Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel lesson offer a way forward. Jesus is speaking to his disciples during the last meal they will share together before his death. He is preparing them for life without his physical presence. Last week we focused on what he had to say about the importance of staying connected with him: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” Now this week, he discusses the character of the life that remains connected with him.

It has everything to do with love.

This Gospel lesson is a challenging passage, calling us to sacrificial love; calling us to a love that is shaped after the love Jesus shows for us; calling us to a love that seeks nothing in return; calling us to a love that is expressed because of the lover’s love for loving. This sort of love stands in stark contrast to the love that seems to be prevalent in society today. Often, these days, love is primarily transactional. I express love for someone who will love me back. I demonstrate affection for someone who is in a position to assist me. I create bonds with someone who shares my biases and perspectives. This kind of love may provide benefits, but it rarely changes lives.

Jesus calls us to a different way of loving. A love that is rooted in the love God has for Jesus. A love that is rooted in the love Jesus has for us. A love that draws us into God’s way of seeing and relating to the world around us. A love that, ultimately, becomes our source of complete joy. A love that has the capacity to transform us, and empower us to become agents of God’s love in this broken world.

This Sunday at Saint Peter Lutheran Church we will be talking about faith formation. Specifically, we will focus on the love of God we experience in Christ which transforms us, and empowers us to live as representatives of Christ in this world. We will talk about how God’s love forms us and reforms us. We will remember that Jesus said the most important commandment is to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. We will explore how God’s love, shared with us through Jesus Christ, moves through us to touch the world that surrounds us. This is the love we want to experience, explore and extend. To do so is the very essence of Christian discipleship — the very essence of the Christian faith.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is unique about the love shared between God the Father and God the Son?
  2. How is this love similar to the love we receive from God?
  3. How do we understand the connection between God’s love and what Jesus describes as “complete joy?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I experienced the sacrificial, unconditional love of God for me?
  2. How has experiencing this love affected me — transformed me?
  3. In what ways have I been able to share this love of God with another person?