May 17, 2020

Message for May 17, 2020-“Loving Jesus = Keeping Faithful”

(Based on Lesson: John 14: 15-21)

     “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of truth… he abides with you, and he will be in you.”  Thus begins our Gospel lesson, the Good News, the Holy Scriptures have for us today.

     We are all very accustomed to hearing about God’s marvelous love for us.  We both know and experience God’s love as the ultimate of unconditional and all-encompassing faithfulness, compassion, mercy and grace.  God continually cares for us even when we fail to care for either ourselves or for others.  God so loves us, God sent us Jesus, that through believing in him we might receive God’s gift of abundant and eternal life. It is God’s gift for us. This is the “good news” that, as Christians, we are glad to boldly proclaim to the world. God is with us and for us-praised be our Lord!

     In todays’ lesson, however, we hear something new.  We hear Jesus say, “If you love me…”  Ah, now this is something very different. We, who have been on the precious receiving end of God’s love as revealed to us in Christ Jesus, are now presented with a new and hope-filled expectation.  As those who have experienced and received the love of God in blessing after blessing and grace upon grace, a relationship of mutual love—a covenant—is what Jesus tells us God most desires. God wants love to be something that is mutual.  Jesus invites us to embrace his love by responding with love in return.  He also reveals to us the very nature that our loving response should take.  If we truly love him, we will keep his commandments.

    Keeping faithful to Jesus’ commandments is a BIG undertaking.  It is easier to love Jesus with an emotional fondness than with obedience to his commandments.  Even though Jesus broke them all down for us into one main commandment, love one another as I have loved you, we know that the “as I have loved you” is a big ask of us.  Jesus knew that, and it is why he promised us the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth—to abide with us and in us.  The Spirit’s truth and guidance make it possible, but, if we are honest, we admit that it is still not always easy to love one another as completely and unselfishly as Jesus has loved us.

     Luckily brothers and sisters in Christ, I have some great news for you!  Love is something we can practice at and grow, with the Spirit’s help, and, of course some time.  That is why our life is a journey, and not a sprint.  John Wesley called it “going on to perfection.”  We are ever growing through the work of the Spirit in and through us.  Yet, I suspect that we may have taken a step or two backwards once or twice (OK, maybe three times) in the past several weeks.  But, Church, we have also taken many steps forward on our journey of faithfulness and love (our journey to perfection), both as individuals and as a Church.

     Over the past several weeks, I have had the blessing of speaking with many of you personally.  There are so many good things happening in and through you during this time of staying safe at home.  You are keeping in touch and making and delivering meals for others; knitting, sewing and crocheting prayer shawls, “Capes for Courage” and protective masks; providing funds and nearly 200 pounds of canned goods to the Akron-Canton Food Bank; and praying—yes praying for the health and physical needs of others above and beyond your own personal needs and concerns.  And, many of you have called, sent cards, and emailed me with words of encouragement and support that mean more than words can express.  Saved by God’s loving grace through our faith, we have each been called into a faithful response of mutual love, and, YES, we are growing in the Spirit!

     I think it is also important for everyone to know that your faithful stewardship, in whatever form it has taken for you in these days, has allowed Peninsula United Methodist Church to continue to pay our Church Staff, as well as to meet our financial obligations.  This is no small undertaking, and I thank God for each of you and your faithfulness.  I have heard from many of our Staff that our continued financial support has been vital to them during these times—that is truly what it means to be a community of faith!  We are also listening to the Spirit’s call for continued faithful stewardship of our finances.  We have secured a CARES loan that will help to sustain us over the next few months, as we anticipate the ability to slowly begin the process of re-opening our doors.

      There is a light—it is the light of Christ—that has always been there, guiding us.  Perhaps we may just be a bit more ready to see it now as the promise of the future looms near.  So, let’s keep listening to the Spirit of truth, as the Spirit speaks to our very hearts.  We, who have been so deeply loved by God in Christ Jesus, are being called to grow deeper into a love like his.  By the Spirit’s power, let us keep faithful to our journey, faithful in all of the little things that make up each part of our daily lives.  And may the peace of Christ guard your hearts and minds until the time when we meet again.  Amen.