Tag Archive | John 13:34-35

Jesus Prays for Us!

John 17:6-19

Eternal and ever blessed God, grant this day light to the minds that hunger for truth, and peace to the hearts that yearn for rest. Grant strength to those who have hard tasks to do, and power to those who have temptations to face. Grant unto all within this place the ability to find the secret of your presence, and to go forth from here in the strength of the Lord. Amen.

Today we celebrate two important and seemingly very different things – one – Mother’s Day – is a secular sort of “made up” holiday that indeed fulfills a wonderful purpose: to remember, honor and thank our mothers, whether alive or not, whether biological or not – that woman or those women who love, nurture, and guide us through life – often from our first breath of air.

The second is a truly sacred day – Ascension Day – the day we mark Jesus’ ascension from earth to be with God – after he appeared several times to his disciples following his resurrection. After Ascension Day, no one sees Jesus again, but in his loving prayer in the gospel today, he asks God to be with us and protect us – to show us the way – and so God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and minds – if we will but seek it and listen.

Much of what we human beings experience involves our emotions. Whether we like it or not, we respond to everything emotionally. Our emotions are involved when we experience love, hurt, anxiety, stress, anger, jealousy, depression, happiness, joy. The most important growing experiences that we will encounter as we travel along the journey we call life, are emotional experiences and feelings. Certainly, they affect our mind and body, but they really reside in our spirit: that part of us that we Christians believe is eternal and connects to other spirits – and to the Holy Spirit of God. Our minds cannot fully comprehend the spiritual depth and breadth of our lives, for it is woven into our very nature – and we believe it is that part of us that exists before and after our life on earth.

The Gospel of John, from which today’s reading comes, is very different from the other three gospels. Written some sixty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection, it is less a narrative and more philosophical; in many ways, it seeks to summarize all of Jesus’ teachings and work. In John, after washing their feet and sharing the Passover feast with his disciples, Jesus began a long series of sermons, known as the ‘final discourses’. In them, he reiterates again and again that God is love (1 John 4:8), and we are to love and serve one another (John 13:34-35); that he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5); and that we are to draw nourishment and direction from his teachings and examples.

Jesus reminds us that if we follow him, we cannot be ‘of this world’. If the world hates us, hurts us, demeans and wounds us, we must know it hated him first, and that we are part of a different kingdom – God’s Kingdom. Following these discourses, Jesus prayed. In the other gospels Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and we are told he prayed for strength for what he knew lay ahead. In John, however, this prayer, which we read today, is almost entirely for us – his disciples, for those he loved then and for those he loves today – you and me!

In the discourses, he promised the disciples that God would send them a companion – the spirit of truth – to guide and protect them, and so in this final prayer, he fervently asks God to do this.

He prayed, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they kept your word. Now they know everything you have given me is from you; of the world that you gave to me I have given to them, and they received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours and yours are mine; and I have glorified them.” (John 17:6-11)

Jesus continued to pray for the protection and unity of his followers, but then his prayer shifted to praying for all of his followers in times to come.

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19)

In the years following Jesus’ death and ascension, his disciples would endure difficult and painful days as they spread his word throughout the known civilized world. They would be imprisoned, tortured and beaten, murdered; they would be alone and reviled. But we can only believe that the power of ‘the Companion of Truth’ that God sent – the Holy Spirit – was so strongly with them, so vibrant and clear, that they all endured, prevailed, and made sure that the work of Jesus of Nazareth changed the world forever.

We are all well aware that our world today is far from the Kingdom of God, but with all its flaws, it is closer to that Kingdom than it was 2000 years ago. Here we are, followers of Jesus, still facing difficult journeys of life, still encountering hate, deception, greed and consumerism, lust and depravity, violence and war, poverty and despair, addictions and destroyers, evil things and evil doings, just as Jesus acknowledged we would in his prayer. Each of us carries, in some way, the marks and scars of battling our way from birth to death in this world.

But, we, too, still have the Companion, the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, the God of love which protects and guides us, and we reach The Companion through our spirits, usually through our emotions. I have come to realize that what one truly feels in their heart is more real, more true, than most things we can study or read. We can use prayer, meditation, intuition, dreams, sudden ‘ah ha’ moments. All of these can reveal the Holy Spirit, can speak to us, guide our ways, just as we are taught in Matthew:

seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you”. (Matthew 7:7)

This, and this alone, gives us the strength and clarity of vision to not be of this world – to turn the other cheek, to walk away from conflict, to be the Samaritan who crosses the road to help and serve others in need, to face pain, illness and suffering with hope; to return hate with love, lies with truth, deception with reality, vengeance with forgiveness, and evil with goodness and love.

In short, our work is in this world. Jesus left physically, but we remain. What he began, we must seek to carry on. And Jesus left us the Holy Spirit, or Companion Protector so we may care for and serve others, love and forgive our brothers and sisters. We are promised no hedge, no short cuts, no escape routes, no end to the battle until we at last cross the River of Death to enter, once again, Eternity – and realize Death is not the victor. We are here, and we must stay here for a time to do his work.

Ultimately, we will always find the sheltering arms of God protecting us. Life is not easy, and if it is, we are probably not doing our jobs. But the reward is great and the Truth and Love of God will keep us strong!

So, take a minute today to look ahead to the coming week; read the prayer that Jesus prayed in John. Focus on how Jesus makes us holy for the sake of oneness with our fellow believers, and gives us courage along the journey, no matter how difficult the path. Ask yourself how God might use you to bring love to our broken, hurting world. How can God use you to transform the pain and darkness of our earthly life and turn it into the promise of resurrection and new life for others, as well as ourselves? Consider how Jesus guides you through his Holy Spirit, when you feel lost; don’t shut out your deepest emotions and feelings, – listen to them! Remember that Jesus prayed for and prepared a way for his disciples, and that includes us!

God answered that prayer then, and does so now!

Jesus’way is

‘the way, the truth, and the life”. (John 14:6)

Let us all seek to follow him.

Let us pray:

“Holy Father, keep us in your name … that we may be one … Sanctify us with the truth of your words. As you sent Christ into the world, so send us into the world, consecrated in truth, armed with your protection and love, and the good news of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. Help us to turn our lives toward bringing the fullness of God’s Kingdom to all, sustained by the hopes and belief that when we reach the end of our lives, there will be no fear, no sadness, but real joy as we hear your trumpet sounding for us on the other side. Amen.

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 13 May 2018

Celebration and a Sense of Doom

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:8-11)

We celebrate Palm Sunday today – the day that Jesus made a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. . . and the beginning of a week that brought denial, betrayal, a trial, crucifixion and finally, resurrection.

This coming “holy week” is the culmination of Jesus’ life – the reason He came as God’s son. We experience a wide range of emotions as we move through the week.

It is the time of the Jewish Passover – a time when people came home to celebrate with their families. It was a holiday then, and still is today, a time to be with family and celebrate with the Passover meal.

If you use your imagination for just a moment, you can feel the press of the people as they gather along the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. You can smell the dust, and the donkeys, you can hear the crowd. You can see the brightly colored holiday clothes of festive pilgrims gathering in Jerusalem.

You can feel the excitement in the air; you may find yourself climbing a tree to break down a palm branch, and then straining to see through all the other waving branches. Off in the distance, a muffled roar, indistinguishable words, then a cheer, and then a chant: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” You may even find yourself shouting

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

Soon the road was jammed with pilgrims and locals alike. They joined the disciples in laying their cloaks across the path to show Jesus honor. They broke branches from the palm trees and waved them in the air, and spread them on the road. While the cloaks and the palm branches make this a procession fit for a king, the cheers of the people were even more significant.

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

It was a great celebration!! People were happy and joyful, celebrating life.

But it was also the last week of Jesus’ life.

In the jubilation of Palm Sunday, we forget that in a few short days Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, tried, abandoned, whipped, spit upon, slapped, scourged, tortured with a crown of thorns, mocked, ridiculed, and ultimately nailed on a cross. And the same crowds that had sung “Hosannas” at his arrival, would shout “Crucify Him!” – and ask Pilate to release Barabbas and put Jesus to death.

Their love for the Lord was shallow and based entirely on their hope of what exciting things he could do for them. In their confusion, and anger, and fear, those who on Sunday had welcomed Jesus as their new messiah, by Friday had turned on him, disappointed in Jesus and their continued lives under the Roman rule. So tired of all they could not control, they cried out for vengeance they could control. If Jesus would not be their king and free them, then they might as well get rid of Him.

Jesus knew that the end of his earthly ministry was near. It was time to do what he had come to do. It was now or never; he was ready to be obedient to God, and to accomplish the purpose set out for him. The road on Palm Sunday was not a road to freedom. It was the road to sacrifice. It was not the road to power, it was the road to humility and humiliation. It was not the road to fame, it was the road to death. It was not the road the crowd thought; it was the road God had planned.

None of us knows just how long each of our lives will be, how much time we have left. Every time we learn of someone who dies young, we are reminded of that.

None of us can know all that the future holds. We don’t know how long we will be on this earth. But we can know that God has a purpose for us. He calls us to love him and love others with the kind of love that He showed us when he sacrificed His only Son. He calls us to speak out the truth, to reach out our hands, to hold out our hearts.

And he calls us to do that now. When we think we are not ready to make a commitment, that is the best time to do it. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He just wants us to try. . . try a little each and every day.

And that day is now.

We don’t know how many more days there will be. We cannot afford to miss even one.

It is time to try to live our lives in the way Jesus taught. We are to

“Love one another as we love ourselves” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus gave his life for us; we can do no less to honor Him.

Let us pray:

Creator who loves us dearly, thank you for sending Jesus to be our redeemer. No matter how, or where or when we worship you, we want to do it to honor you and not ourselves. May we reflect Jesus’ passion and share in your grace. In the name of the Son of David we pray. Amen.

 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 9 April 2017

Happy Fourth of July – Not ‘Independence’ Day

This weekend we celebrated the Fourth of July with picnics and fireworks and way too much food. The Fourth of July is also called ‘Independence Day’, a commemoration of the colonists rebelling against the rule of England.

It is America’s 239th Birthday. . . .

Happy Birthday, America!

declaration of independence signingNo other holiday is endowed with the same kind of  American-ness, elevating secular values, such as liberty and self-government, to almost astronomical heights. Americans collectively remind themselves of who they are and what they profess to believe on Independence Day.

There are some interesting facts about Independence Day that you may not know:

  1. The real date that the Continental Congress declared independence from the British Empire
    was July 2, 1776.
  2. July 4 is celebrated as Independence Day because the Congress approved the Declaration of
    Independence on July 4, 1776, after two days of debating and revising its contents.
  3. The Declaration of Independence was actually signed by most of the members of the
    Continental Congress on August 2, 1776.
  4. Three American presidents died on the Fourth of July, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and
    James Monroe.
  5. The song “America” was sung for the first time on July 4th, 1832 in Boston.
  6. Alaska and Hawaii both became states on the fourth of July.

The Fourth of July is a rare moment of unity, one of the very few times each year when an increasingly polarized society participates in a single, shared experience. It’s intended to be a day to honor the fundamental values of the American democracy — life, liberty, independence, equality, justice and self-determination.

The word independence is defined as:

freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

The concept of independence is a good one; we all need to realize that we are the only ones responsible for our actions. We can do whatever we want, within the bounds of being legal, and no one can stop us. We live in a democracy where a prime minister cannot dictate how we feel or what we say or how we live. That is really freeing and give us each a sense of control over our lives. But with those ‘rights’ come responsibilities – responsibilities for ourselves and responsibilities to others.

So, I am suggesting that to correctly celebrate July fourth, we should be celebrating ‘Interdependence Day’.

Interdependence is defined as:

the mutual reliance on each other.

Although we are free to do what we want, none of us live alone on a desert island; we are all part of the wider community and what we do does impact others. We are all connected in some way or other. All the false borders we often put up to separate us from others in the name of independence: those of  race and religion and status, all tend to reinforce the idea that ‘the other’ is something we need to be protected from, that we are in a cocoon so that what we or they do has no impact on each of us.

Building those false borders creates a posture of fear and self-preservation; we wrongly believe that another’s gain is somehow our loss and our gain is someone else’s loss. These borders deprive us of the great diversity we live and flourish in. These self-made barriers also keep us in denial of our responsibility toward others, exempting us from owning our part in the greater community.

But we do not live in a protective dome; we live on the earth with the rest of humanity. We have to live with and in an environment where we all can flourish. What we do affects others as much as what others do affects us. And we have mutual goals (life, liberty and pursuit of happiness) that we cannot attain by ourselves.

We all have heard the creation story in Genesis 2:18-23 that God created a world where we are directed to protect the world. Each one of us is to

‘feed the hungry, clothe the naked’

as Jesus said in Matthew 25:35-40. In order to do that, we all must work together. We cannot do it alone. We all are dependent on each other; we are to

love one another (John 13:34-35)

So yesterday, people rightly celebrated the birth of our nation, and the personal freedoms we seek as a people, to protect and celebrate. Yet this and every day is an opportunity to realize how much we need, rely on, learn from, and owe to one another, far beyond our own little corner of the world.

The Fourth of July is cause for both reverence and celebration. But so is our interdependence on each other.

Let us pray:

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of world a zeal for justice and the strength of tolerance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will. Amen.

Happy Interdependence Day!

 

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH  5 July 2015

Love EVERYONE – Even Your Enemies

In today’s Scripture we back up a little in time to when Jesus was with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper and Judas has just slinked off to bring the authorities to seize Him. Jesus had been teaching his disciples how to continue without Him once He left the earth.

Jesus was talking to the disciples, foretelling his death and ascension. He had spent the last three years preaching and teaching and training His disciples to carry on His work. And then, on His last time together with them, He gave them (and us) a new commandment in John 13:34:

that you’re to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

This is one of the better-known scriptures and also one of the most challenging.

Jesus said ‘love one another’. . .

    not those that you love
    or that love you
    or are family
    or are friends
    or are your neighbors:

    EVERYONE!!!

This love Jesus talks about isn’t romantic love, nor is it simply being nice, nor is it only loving those who love you back. Remember, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, Judas was there and had his feet washed too. The man who would turn Him over to the authorities to be tried, found guilty and crucified. He washed HIS feet.

It is easy for us to love those who are close to us, but Jesus did more than love His friends – He loved HIS ENEMIES!!

He even forgave those who crucified Him!

And his death showed just how much God loved the world by dying for those who did not love him. This kind of love is hard because it is self-sacrificing. It means putting the good of the other first, even when it hurts.

How do we love as Jesus loved?

The love of Jesus is too strange, so absent in today’s world, something that people are not accustomed to.

But that is the love that Jesus meant. . . love that leads to forgiveness.

Do we show that love wherever we are today?

Do we even show it to our family when there are fights?

Do we show it in our workplace?

Do we show it to the stranger?

Loving one another was not Jesus’ suggestion!

It was his command!

So we need to let love be the center of our life.

But what is that love?

Love has good manners. Love does not take advantage of people. It’s not irritable. Love does not keep account of hurts. When we are hurt, we don’t keep that hurt in our memory. We don’t dwell on it and let it fester.

In our lifetime we’ll have lots of opportunity to suffer hurts. And people, including Christians, do all kinds of strange and terrible things to each other. People will lie to you. Somebody that you trusted will gossip about you. The gossip might not be true, but it spreads like wild fire, and you can’t stop it. A mother-in-law might interfere in your marriage. A roommate or a spouse might say something in anger that cuts so deep it seems the wound will never heal. All of us have many opportunities every day to either to let that hurt turn into hatred or extend love to the person who hurt us.

You will have many chances in your life to deal with people who hurt you. You might be thinking of someone like that right now. The Apostle Paul says that when someone hurts you, if you’re really expressing God’s love, you won’t keep remembering the hurt.

So the question is:

    How do you get that love into your life?

    What can you do to remove the hatred and replace it with love?

Step 1 – Release past hurts.

    One thing you can do to practice the kind of love where you will not remember, you will not keep in your heart and mind the hurts done to you. We go over things to remember them. If you don’t go over them, you forget them. You can decide you are not going to bring up old hurts.

Step 2 – Let God handle vengeance.

    A second thing you can do is to turn over to God anything that hurts you. If there is vengeance to be done, it’s God’s business. Let him handle it. In Romans 12 Paul wrote,

    Pay back to no man evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and seemly in every one’s mind. (Romans 12:17)

    Live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, let God do it. Remember, God said:

    It is mine to avenge. I will repay. (Romans 12:19)

    If hurts need to be atoned, let God do it. Turn it over to him.

Step 3 – Remember how God forgave you.

    A final thing you can do to gain this kind of forgiving love for others is to remember how God loved us, warts and all. God assures us in Hebrews 8:12:

    I will forgive your wickedness, and I will remember your sins no more.

    Some of us have a hard time accepting that God forgives us; we may feel that God’s against us – that God’s going to dredge up all the stuff from our past.

    But He is NOT.

    When God says we are forgiven, we are forgiven.

And if we’re forgiven, it’s easier to be forgiving and to love others. In our love for others we will reflect the love of God. Jesus told us:

everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)

It is not easy – no one ever said it would be. But, remember, ‘love one another’ was NOT a suggestion from Jesus, but a COMMANDMENT.

If He could forgive and love those who persecuted and crucified Him, we can surely love and forgive those who have done much less to each of us.

A long time ago, as he hung on the cross, Jesus, the Lamb of God, prayed for the very people who were killing him. With almost His last breath, He said:

Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing. (Luke 23:34)

If He can do that, then we must

Love one another (John 13:34)

Amen
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 28 April 2013

Love EVERYONE, Even Your Enemies

John 13:34-35

In today’s Scripture we back up a little in time to when Jesus was with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper and Judas has just slinked off to bring the authorities to seize Him. Jesus had been teaching his disciples how to continue without Him once He left the earth.

Jesus was talking to the disciples, foretelling his death and ascension. He had spent the last three years preaching and teaching and training His disciples to carry on His work. And then, on His last time together with them, He gave them (and us) a new commandment in John 13:34:

that you’re to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

This is one of the better-known scriptures and also one of the most challenging.

Jesus said ‘love one another’. . .

     not those that you love
     or that love you
     or are family
     or are friends
     or are your neighbors
    EVERYONE!!!

This love Jesus talks about isn’t romantic love, nor is it simply being nice, nor is it only loving those who love you back. Remember, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, Judas was there and had his feet washed too. The man who would turn Him over to the authorities to be tried, found guilty and crucified. He washed HIS feet.

It is easy for us to love those who are close to us, but Jesus did more than love His friends –

    He loved HIS ENEMIES!!

He even forgave those who crucified Him!

And his death showed just how much God loved the world by dying for those who did not love him. This kind of love is hard because it is self-sacrificing. It means putting the good of the other first, even when it hurts.

How do we love as Jesus loved?

The love of Jesus is too strange, so absent in today’s world, something that people are not accustomed to.

But that is the love that Jesus meant. . . love that leads to forgiveness.

    Do we show that love wherever we are today?
    Do we even show it to our family when there are fights?
    Do we show it in our workplace?
    Do we show it to the stranger?
    Loving one another was not Jesus’ suggestion! It was his command!
    So we need to let love be the center of our life.

But what is that love?

Love has good manners. Love does not take advantage of people. It’s not irritable. Love does not keep account of hurts. When we are hurt, we don’t keep that hurt in our memory. We don’t dwell on it and let it fester.

In our lifetime we’ll have lots of opportunity to suffer hurts. And people, including Christians, do all kinds of strange and terrible things to each other. People will lie to you. Somebody that you trusted will gossip about you. The gossip might not be true, but it spreads like wild fire, and you can’t stop it. A mother-in-law might interfere in your marriage. A roommate or a spouse might say something in anger that cuts so deep it seems the wound will never heal. All of us have many opportunities every day to either to let that hurt turn into hatred or extend love to the person who hurt us.

You will have many chances in your life to deal with people who hurt you. You might be thinking of someone like that right now. The Apostle Paul says that when someone hurts you, if you’re really expressing God’s love, you won’t keep remembering the hurt. So the question is:

How do you get that love into your life?

What can you do to remove the hatred and replace it with love?

Step 1 – Release past hurts.
One thing you can do to practice the kind of love where you will not remember, you will not keep in your heart and mind the hurts done to you. We go over things to remember them. If you don’t go over them, you forget them. You can decide you are not going to bring up old hurts.

Step 2 – Let God handle vengeance.
A second thing you can do is to turn over to God anything that hurts you. If there is vengeance to be done, it’s God’s business. Let him handle it. In Romans 12 Paul wrote,

Pay back to no man evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and seemly in every one’s mind. (Romans 12:17)

Live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, let God do it. Remember, God said:

It is mine to avenge. I will repay. (Romans 12:19)

If hurts need to be atoned, let God do it. Turn it over to him.

Step 3 – Remember how God forgave you.
A final thing you can do to gain this kind of forgiving love for others is to remember how God loved us, warts and all. God assures us in Hebrews 8:12:

I will forgive your wickedness, and I will remember your sins no more.

Some of us have a hard time accepting that God forgives us; we may feel that God’s against us – that God’s going to dredge up all the stuff from our past.

But He is NOT.

When God says we are forgiven, we are forgiven.

And if we’re forgiven, it’s easier to be forgiving and to love others. In our love for others we will reflect the love of God. Jesus told us:

everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)

It is not easy – no one ever said it would be. But, remember, ‘love one another’ was NOT a suggestion from Jesus, but a COMMANDMENT.

If He could forgive and love those who persecuted and crucified Him, we can surely love and forgive those who have done much less to each of us.

A long time ago, as he hung on the cross, Jesus, the Lamb of God, prayed for the very people who were killing him. With almost His last breath, He said:

Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing. (Luke 23:34)

If He can do that, then we must

Love one another (John 13:34)

Amen
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 28 April 2013