Good morning, Friends!
We’ve already read a lot of Scriptures about love during the children’s time. So you know when the Bible talks about love, it’s not just an isolated thing. Love is all through the Bible!
There are so many more Scriptures we could have read, in addition to the ones we heard earlier. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
If you read the Gospel, love is the constant song that Jesus is singing. It’s in everything Jesus does. It’s in everyone he talks to. It’s there in every person Jesus heals, or feeds, or reaches out to.
And that’s great! It’s great to be loved. We can never hear too often, that God loves us. God loves us all the way down from the bottom of God’s heart.
God loved you before you were born. God loved you before you were even a twinkle in your mother and father’s eye!
God was wildly in love with you, from the first cry you gave the day that you were born. God loved every wobbly first step you took. God loved every crayon picture that hung on your refrigerator.
We talked last week about how God’s house has many rooms, with space for everyone. Well, God has the biggest refrigerator in the world, with all your pictures on it. Every one. That’s a big refrigerator!
You hear what I’m saying? Love is what God does. Love is who God is. Love is God’s full time occupation. God doesn’t have any side jobs. There’s no distracting God from love.
You try and pull God away in some other direction, and God comes right back and says, “I love you!” Somebody tries to make you think that God doesn’t love you, and God says, “Mm-mmm! I’ve always loved you. I just can’t give you up! I know you from one end to the other, and I still love you!”
It’s easy to say, but we forget that God loves us some times. Or we let our fears and our doubts get in the way. We think we’re not good enough. But God says, “I love you. I forgive you. I make it right!”
We think we don’t matter, but God says, “You matter everything to me! Don’t you know that I love you?”
We think we’re too sinful, or too faithless, or too uncertain, or too fat, or something. And God says, “How silly can you get? Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I tell you, six ways from Sunday, that you are loved? You got wax in your ears? I love you!”
It’s all there in the Bible. Even the part about wax in your ears. I’ll look it up for you, if you want. (It’s in Isaiah 35:5.)
That would be a nice subject for Valentine’s Day. God loves you. But we’ve been reading the gospel of John for the past few weeks. And we’re up to John chapter 15. And it has something really important to add about love, which I think we need to hear.
My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love one another.John 15:12-17
Any time people ask me where we get our name from, I point them to the passage I just read. I don’t mean Quakers. I mean our real name. Our branch of the family of Christ is called the Religious Society of Friends.
This is where we get our name from. John chapter 15. You want to be a Baptist, there’s other places I can point you to. You want to be a Pentecostal, there’s some good scripture there. You want to be a Catholic, which means the universal church, I can point you to that, too.
We get our name from today’s Scripture.
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. . .”
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but in my sermons, when I talk about the group of people that followed Jesus around and listened to him and witnessed what Jesus did and said, I don’t usually talk about Jesus’ disciples. I talk about Jesus’ friends.
A lot of people tagged along behind Jesus simply because they were curious. Maybe they heard some rumors. Maybe their neighbor asked if they’d heard about this Jesus.
Other people became disciples. They tried to memorize what Jesus said. They wanted Jesus to be their teacher.
It’s not a bad thing to be a disciple. It’s a good thing! Learning Jesus’ words by heart, and trying to understand them, and share them, is a terrific thing to do. I wish that more people would be heartfelt disciples.
But today, Jesus calls us to be his friends. Not curiousity seekers, not students, but friends. And what Jesus says today is very simple: “You are my friends, when you love one another as I have loved you. . .”
People ask me all the time, “What’s God doing in the world today? What’s God’s plan in the world today? Doesn’t Jesus have a plan? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit have a plan?”
And the answer is, yes, of course, God does have a plan. And it’s very simple. It’s all right here. God’s plan, Jesus’ plan, the Spirit’s plan, has always been that we should love one another. That’s it.
And people say, “Yes, but what’s the rest of it? What are the directions? Where’s the map? What’s the blueprint?”
And the answer is, the plan is exactly what Jesus told us. “Love one another, as I have loved you. . .”
If you’re a detail person, this is just going to drive you crazy. People want a step-by-step, paint by the numbers, watch the YouTube video plan for how to be a Christian. They’re convinced that if they keep pushing, that God’s going to send them a detailed copy of the secret master plan.
And the problem is, there isn’t one. God’s plan is simply truth and justice, peace and faith, humility, mercy, healing and care for the creation. Most of all, God’s plan is love, which is really the summary of all those other things.
Last week, we had a very special time here at worship. How many of you were here last week? We prayed for one of the beloved families of our meeting. They’re facing an enormous challenge, and we gathered round and reached out and put our hands on them, and prayed for them.
There is so little we can do, but we lifted them up in love and prayer. It was one of the most beautiful moments that many of us can remember. We were being a real church, we were loving with everything we have, and it was wonderful.
I have witnessed other moments here at Springfield, when it felt like God was right here for a little while. Moments when people who have been hurt, forgave each other, and were reconciled. Moments when people were generous, and gave not just from their pocketbooks, but from their hearts.
I have seen Jesus’ patient love, in teachers who spend years in shaping the hearts and minds of our young people. Without reward, often without thanks, they come every week to teach and listen and love. They’re part of God’s plan.
I’ve seen Jesus’ love, in people who stay around and are the last to leave at the end of a dinner. They go the last extra mile to leave things clean and ready for the next group that comes along. They’re tired. They could leave early. But they don’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I know that seems pretty ordinary, but that’s love.
Love is whatever brings life. Love is welcoming people, and helping them feel that this is their place, too. Love is all the things we do as a church, together, to be Jesus’ friends in this time and place.
All the books you read, all the TV preachers you listen to, aren’t going to tell you anything better or truer than this. God loves you. And God’s plan, is always to love. When we do that, we are Jesus’ friends.
That’s the plan.