Sermon #2 of the hat trick of sermons posted today. This one is a little bit shorter – we had communion and a baptism and I didn’t want to keep people in the pews until noon! I preached on John 15:9-17 and the command to love one another as Christ loves us. I talked about how the word “love” is translated from the Greek and how that helps us understand what Jesus was talking about. Enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
May 6, 2018
It Is That Simple
After an overwhelmingly successful Baked Potato Bar fundraiser for Homeless Awareness Weekend back in March, Mike Barger enthusiastically texted me and told me that the next fundraiser would be a Taco Bar in May. Always excited at the prospect of a good themed-party, I volunteered to decorate for the occasion and immediately opened Pinterest to get ideas.
One of the first things that popped up was a sign that said, “All you need is love and tacos.”
My first thought was, “We need this sign for our Taco Bar.”
Okay, my first thought was actually, “I need this sign for my house,” but then I thought about the Taco Bar, saved the pin for later and continued to scroll through the search results.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon; I was having a hard time organizing my thoughts for this week’s sermon when I remembered the saying on this sign, “All you need is love and tacos.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that simple?
It was a hard week for pastoral care; I found myself sitting in the silences of unimaginable grief, fear, pain and sadness with people and so desperately wished that a little bit of love and a plate full of a tacos could have fixed everything.
But that’s the thing about life – you can’t always fix things. When the rubber meets the road and bad things happen, sometimes we cannot make them better, no matter how badly we might want to.
We live in an imperfect world; a world where bad things happen, where people feel pain, where evil threatens our existence and where we often travel through the darkness, wondering where and when we will find light.
And yet, living in this imperfect word – feeling pain, experiencing evil and sitting in the darkness of the unknown – Jesus gave us a simple command:
Love one another as I have loved you.
Is it really that simple? In the midst of everything that happens in this world – the challenges we face, the humanity we cannot always reconcile and the questions that are far too often left unanswered – is it really simply a matter of loving one another?
The word, “love,” itself, is not exactly simple, because it translates several different Greek words. When the word, “love,” appears in the New Testament, it is hard, in a biblical understanding, to offer one mutually exclusive definition of the word.
In this case, the word, love, is translated from the Greek, agapē, which is translated into Latin as, caritas, which means, charity. Here love is not necessarily a feeling we experience, but an action we participate in. It is concerned with the good of others and it has no limits. This type of love is a characteristic of God that we, as humans, partake in. It is a grace that we do not necessarily understand, but that we uncover and stand in awe of as we care for others. This is the kind of love that moves mountains and transforms people’s lives; that reminds someone, that even in their darkest moment, they are not alone.
If we are truly going to live out Christ’s call to love one another as God loves us, we have to remember that this kind of love requires a bold and irrefutable action; a concern for our neighbors far greater than ourselves; and a resilient belief that we can make a difference in someone’s life.
Yes, my friends, I do believe that if we had this kind of a love AND a plate full of tacos, then we would be all set.
Love in action, of course, is not always easy. The nature of this kind of love, the expression of love towards others, whether they be our friends or our enemies, is not something that necessarily comes naturally to us all the time (let’s go back to that whole living in an imperfect world thing, shall we?).
But Jesus reminds us that we do not have to go searching for this love, it is already within us; it is a gift God has given to each and every one of us, a grace bestowed upon us through love, itself. Jesus said:
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; [so] love one another as I have loved you.
So we can do it; because the love we are being called to express is a type of love that has been infused within us.
One of my favorite lines in this passage is verse 16, where Jesus says:
You did not choose me but I chose you.
We are chosen; we are called. God put us on this earth and is commanding us to love one another; to be tangible expressions of light, healing and hope to a world that is broken; to be the hands and feet and face of Christ to those who so desperately need to see and hear and experience the Good News.
Very often, when bad things happen to the people around us, we cannot fix them. But in those moments, we can love and we can love hard. We can live out agapē, bestowing love upon others the way God loves us every day. We can show up with meals, drinks and an endless supply of chocolate. We can mail cards and send prayer shawls. We can offer to take care of pets and do household chores. We can shovel driveways in the winter and do yard work in the summer. We can hold one another’s hands and tell them that we love them. We can tell jokes and help people laugh, maybe not taking away their pain, but reminding them that one day they will, again, feel joy.
Remember, this kind of love is not something that we have to learn, this kind of love is something that is already within us. In the same way God gave us the ability to breathe, God gave us the ability to love. As blood flows freely through our body, so, too, does love.
So as you heed Christ’s commandment to love one another as he has loved us, remember that this kind of love requires action. So let us take action; let us love and love hard. Let us change people’s lives and show them that they are not alone.
It is that simple.
Thanks be to God!