Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 15th chapter (John 15:9-17).
Beloved in the Lord,
All love is rooted in the Father’s Love. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves you. All love is rooted in the Lord. “God is Love” (1 John 4:8,16) and in divine, holy Love, the Father gives His Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). All love is rooted in the Father’s love for His Son. All love flows from the Father to the Son who is the true vine. The true vine gives the Father’s love to the branches. This is the way love flows. This is the way love works. This is the way of Love, God’s Love, Biblical love, Love that lasts for eternity. There is no other way, no alternate love, none that is biblical, none that lasts for eternity.
Jesus desires the Father’s love for you. But you cannot receive the Father’s love, divine love, Biblical love, love that lasts for eternity, if you are not connected to the True Vine. You must be connected to Jesus. The Father loves the Son. Apart from Jesus you are nothing but dry wood, a dead branch, a twig with no fruit. But, connected to Jesus the believer possesses Jesus. All that is our Lord’s is given to those who are His. “As the Father loves Me even so I love you.” The Father loves the Son. The Son loves you. What is divine, biblical, godly and eternal is given to you through the love of Jesus. All love is rooted in the Father who loves the Son who loves you. Thus Jesus says, “abide in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love.”
The command to love, is a command to remain in Christ. It is first commandment stuff. For apart from the true God there is no true love. Apart from the Triune God there is only self love. Everything in the Law hinges on the First commandment, namely that “we fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” But self-love is the way we’re conceived. It’s the way we’re born. Self-love is Old Adam’s love. It is narcissistic, hedonistic, even at times pietistic, because everything revolves around me. And when it’s about me, it’s not about you. When it’s about me it’s not coming from the Lord. It’s all about me, myself, I. Self-love is apart from Christ and ignoring the Father’s love for the Son and the Son’s love for the world, self-love seeks to define love on its own terms its own way. Self-love is very post-modern, very politically correct, very tolerant, and very perverse. Self-love embraces alternate loves. Self-love abandons both God and neighbor in the pursuit of self esteem and self preservation. Self-love is the love of the world. And a world that loves itself cannot get past itself. That’s why so many so easily are offended. That’s why mom’s are given the right to choose, parents are given the opportunity to leave, and homosexuals receive presidential blessings to marry. It’s all self-love, all narcissism taken to its logical conclusion. Such self-love doesn’t create but perverts and destroys. Such is the wages of sin.
The command to love is to love as the Bible teaches which is opposite of the way of the world. We Christians are called to love as we have been loved, not as the world loves, not according to self-preservation, or self- exultation but according to the Gospel. We are called to love as the Father loves the Son and as the Son loves us. We are called to this task and given opportunity to love in our vocations. The Lord doesn’t drop us into time and space and command, “Love your neighbor.” The Command surely is there but the command is fulfilled in our vocations. Husbands, “love your wives.” Wives, “submit to your husbands.” Children honor your Father and your mother. Love in this world first happens in the family. Where there is no love in the family there will be no love in the world and the hearts of many will grow cold. Where there is no love in the family there is a problem, a big problem, a problem that soon manifests itself in society. Where there is no love, biblical love, godly love, love that lasts for eternity or at least until death parts us, then we’ve got a faith problem. Remember, all love, biblical love, godly love, love that lasts for eternity comes from the Father through the Son to you. If you’ve got a love problem, you’ve got a faith problem. Repent!
The temptation is to seek counseling, get some good advice, read a good book, try, try, and try again until you get this “love” thing right once and for all. That’s just more self-love. Self-love won’t fix your marriage, it won’t bind up your family, it won’t change things but it hasn’t changed you, your heart, your mind, your god.
A love problem is a faith problem and a faith problem is a god problem. If your love is weak or wrong your faith is weak or wrong. You’ve got a god problem. You are not your own god no matter how loving, pious, devout, well intended you think you might be. Therefore repent and abide in the Love of Jesus. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves you. And how does the Son love you? “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” How does Jesus love you? He dies. The Father loves the Son and sends Him into death for you and me and the whole world. Jesus goes to the cross. He bears all your self-love, all your sins, all your perversities, all your selfishness, all your idolatry, all that you deserve because of all that you have done or not done. That’s LOVE! That’s love that is biblical, godly and lasts for eternity. God is Love! Love became flesh and dwelt among us and then love took up the cross; suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified, dead and buried. Love was betrayed. Love was rejected. Love was rebuked and spit upon and pummeled and lashed and whipped. Love bled and love died. Love, biblical love, godly love, love that last for eternity gives everything for His beloved, for you and me and for the world. In this way, Jesus abided in the Father’s love, manifested the Father’s love, and gives the Father’s love for the world, and to the World and thus also for you and to you.
Rising from the dead Jesus’ love triumphs over the world’s. Self-love refuses to suffer, fights against it with all its heart, and soul, and strength and mind. Yet, Jesus’ death and resurrection surrenders to the world’s self-love and does it in, turns it around, puts it to death. Rising out of it, Love wins. But only in Christ, only by grace through faith in Christ. Apart from Christ there is nothing, no love, no winning, no heaven. Thus Jesus’ death and resurrection fix not only our love problem, but also our god problem.
This whole “love, god, and faith” problem is something we all struggle with. The heart is forever an idol factory. The Old Adam continually beckons us away from Christ and to focus on ourselves, and the devil is always about us. Just because we’re baptized doesn’t mean all of our enemies go away. Sure it means our enemies are defeated, but like the Nazis on June 7, 1944 they don’t just disappear. Our enemies continually plague us, shooting us, bombing us, telling us to give in, give up, surrender the fight, filling our ears with their propaganda, telling us it would be easier if we were just a bit more tolerant, accepting, etc.
Jesus tells us otherwise. When Jesus says, “abide in my love.” He means keep your heart and soul and mind and strength focused on me. It’s a first commandment issue. It’s a faith issue. When love begins to wane the correction isn’t more works on our part, the correction is repentance and faith in Jesus. The correction, the change is first and foremost a faith change. Where is my heart? What is it focusing on? Am I being selfish? Such questions give opportunity for reflection and honest examination of our own heart rather than the heart of the one’s we’re supposed to be loving. Luther says, “We must repel any suspicion and antipathy that may be stirred up in us and remind ourselves not to let love depart and die out for this reason but to hold to it with a strong hand. And if aversion and discord have arisen anywhere, we must restore and improve the love and friendship.” In other words, where love grows cold, we ought to take notice and return to Christ, the fountain and source of love, biblical, godly, eternal love. Returning to Christ is what repentance is all about. Therefore in repentance and faith I turn to Christ, cling to His cross, receive His blessed sacrament and hear His holy Word. Receiving from Christ, repenting of my sins, turning away from the ways of the world, Christ works His work in me, for me, and then through me. I cannot make myself a more loving person. The Law cannot make me a more loving person. Only the gospel, only Jesus who is the true vine and delights to share His love with any and all who believe. This love, the Love of Jesus, biblical, godly and eternal love is always Christ centered and cross focused. Apart from Jesus there is nothing.
Therefore beloved, heed the words of Jesus. “abide in my love” and therefore “love one another.” And “Unrequited love is no excuse to quit loving!” (Luther) Rather, we must look to Christ in faith all the more. We must keep our eyes fixed, our hearts focused, our ears open, and the love of God in mind. With such faith in our hearts then we shall be found loving on the day of His return. Thus faithfully will a husband love his wife and will the wife submit to herhusband. Faithfully will mothers receive their children, faithfully will fathers abide with their children’s mother. Love will flow from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to His baptized, from individual Christians through their vocations, and from families to the communities, from communities to the world. This is the way love flows. This is the way love works. This is the way of love, biblical love, God’s love, love that lasts forever. For all love is rooted in the Father and the Son. It is given through Christ and apart from Christ there is nothing. In Christ there is everything. Abide in Christ! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI