An act of worship at home
Reading John 15:9-17
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 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. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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. 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. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
I wonder if the whole evolutionary purpose of life on this planet is to produce loving creatures. The complex, painstaking process of creating humanity driven by the God who is love. The painfully slow growth in human understanding, all the long struggle of humanity in its noble moments, is for the purpose of loving.
The triumph of the human spirit over set back, suffering, and evil in multiple forms, is to produce loving individuals. Nothing matters more. Nothing is more fundamental. The whole purpose is for us to become loving beings; like God. I think it is as simple as that and as profound as that. Jesus invites us to participate in the fundamental loving actions of God, and in so doing we will find our own fulfilment.
But is that asking too much? Is it too big a request for human beings, whose lives last only a fragment of time, to tackle being like God? Some would say an emphatic “Yes!” it is asking too much. In fact it is being both arrogant and ridiculous.” But the Bible insists that we have a special nature and a special destiny. We have a remarkable likeness to God. Not a physical likeness of course, but a personal one.
Sometimes it’s easier to believe what the Bible tells us about God than what it tells us about humanity. The Bible has such a high vision of humanity. One of the two Genesis stories of creation says that we are made in the image of God. The second says that God’s own breath, or Spirit is in us and is part of our very being. Paul revels in the fact that the Holy Spirit witnesses in our mind and heart that “we are children of God, joint-heirs with Christ.”
Jesus tells us to participate in the characteristic loving activity of God. And as the first letter of John insists, we cannot say we love God unless we are loving to one another. These are inseparable. Loving is part of us. We are called to be loving because it is the very food of our souls and the purest expression of our spirits.
This loving cannot be understood by looking it up in a dictionary. We need to spend time with Jesus of Nazareth. He above all makes real the amazing loving of God for this world. His life is our definition of what the Gospel means by love. John records the words Jesus uses to his followers as: “Love each other as I have loved you.” If we follow this, we embrace Jesus as our definition of loving.
And we can’t edit out, or forget, the tough titanium in the loving of Jesus. Christian loving is sometimes reduced to the level of sentimentality. But Loving Jesus-style includes – challenging corruption and lies, caring for the welfare of our enemies, forgiving seventy time seven those who hurt us, turning the other cheek, giving without wanting gratitude or praise, confronting honestly the hypocrisies of religion, expressing anger when others are being exploited, cleansing the temple, embracing outcastes and welcoming sinners, accepting that sometimes misunderstanding will happen; that rejection and suffering may be the only apparent result of our holiest efforts.
With Jesus we get to the heart of loving. With Jesus we get to the crux of loving.
“Crux” because the whole of the life of Jesus displays love for us; but is expressed most clearly on a cross. There he is crucified, forgiving his enemies and full of compassion for those around him. This is ultimate loving. This is what it means to be Divine. It is also what it means to be fully human.
Jesus shows that it is possible to share God’s characteristic, loving activity. He shows the glory that flames out from humanity when loving is our passion, the “great love of our life”. But love is not just a feeling, it’s a commitment, not a gush of kindness but an act of will. Loving is the result of a decision to be a loving person; just as Christ made that decision and reaffirmed it in the last days that led to the cross. Thank you Lord, for such amazing love. Amen.
Let us give thanks for the remarkable gifts of God’s creating and redeeming love, the loving that casts out all fear.
For the love that frees us to ask questions and explore…
For the love that helps us to communicate with one another…
For the love that inspires us to warmly encourage those around us…
For the love that liberates us to celebrate the world around us…
For the love that encourages us to express something of our faith…
Above all else we thank you for the love that allows us to admit that we have no words in which to adequately describe love.
We thank you for that point where our love becomes wordless adoration.
Through Christ Jesus, who is the pure glory of your loving. Amen!
Hymn StF 330 – Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.
Bless to me, great God every thought I weigh, every word I say, every prayer I pray.
Bless through me great God every path I take, every friend I make, every hope I awake.
The graces of courage, happiness and a serene mind, and all such blessings that belong to the children of the Triune God, be with you now and evermore. Amen.