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Monday, April 21, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- It's All About Love Edition

Acts 17:22-31

Psalm 66:8-201

Peter 3:13-22

John 14:15-21

In the passage for this Sunday from John, the disciples are scared. They are scared because Jesus has told them that he will soon leave them, that soon he will no longer be among them to lead them, inspire them, guide them, teach them. And the disciples are wondering, what they are going to do? They have given up three years of their lives to follow Jesus, they love Jesus, and they know that EVERYTHING is going to change when he is gone.

Jesus is trying to allay their fears, so he tells the disciples, just because I am not here in person doesn’t mean that I won’t be with you. It doesn’t mean that anything will change. Your goals for life and discipleship should be absolutely the same. Just because you can’t reach out and touch me doesn’t mean that you can’t love me. Even when I am not with you, continue to love me! Love me, show your love for me by following my commandments. Love me by preaching what I have preached. Love me by living as I have lived. You will never be orphans. You are children of God! You will never be alone, the Holy Spirit will always be with you. Keep doing what God wants you to do.

My brother is not one known to hearken too many church doors, aside from when a family wedding or funeral dictates he show up. But that having been said, my brother is Very good at finding good church or religious jokes for me. About once a week I get something good in e-mail that makes me laugh at myself or the church. A sense of humor is a very good thing.

And so a few months ago I got an e-mail with a very simple joke of the bumper-sticker variety included.

If you love Jesus, tithe. Anyone can honk.

It’s a good joke because it is absolutely true. And it is the crux of what Jesus is saying here is if you love me, obey. Anyone can honk. If you love me, if you get what I am talking about, do something. Believe. Obey.

I don't use that "O" word lightly. It is a word heavy with all kinds of baggage. But it is , with God, a Good word. We are free to obey.

Obey is another of those unpopular concepts because it has been used to belittle and limit others. Jesus is talking about obey in the sense of a sonnet. A sonnet with its fourteen lines of iambic pentameter and rhyme scheme has rules. Within these rules is the greatest freedom imaginable to create image and emotion that can only be created when you commit to the rules. That’s the kind of obey Jesus is talking about here.

What does it mean to obey through living out the love of God?

Is it an action that stands on its own, or does it come from the love of God that we accept?

How do we keep this passage (do we keep this passage) from advising busy people that they need to do more?

Those are some of my thoughts… How about yours?


  1. Not being a preacher I usually just wait till Sunday to think about the texts -- but today I read your post and the analogy with the sonnet really struck me -- thanks!

  2. Excellent thoughts. Thank you.

  3. Listing Straight, I wanted to let you know that your post last week gave me the inspiration for what my congregation called an excellent sermon - Time for Plan B. Thank you. I did attribute it to a blogging colleague. :-)

    I am planning to use the passage from Acts for Earth Stewardship Sunday, but not quite sure where it's going to take me yet.

  4. Well I tried to write my Sunday sermon yesterday - because I have three to write this week - (funerals, etc)...Plus my SIL is coming for a visit Friday and, I have to be ready early.

    I ended up thinking about what it means to be missionaries for God - like Paul in Acts - and sharing the Good News with those who are different than we are...I rolled that into some thoughts on 1 Peter trying to reframe suffering - We are not to impose suffering on others, belief in God should never be an endorsement (in my mind) for violence in the name of God, whether that is violence to a spouse, a child, a stranger. Rather sometimes suffering happens as we live a life of faith because others around us do not understand us and our love of God. But, if we live a life of love (Gospel) - loving God, loving self, loving others - then our actions show that love, manifest that love into the world - and in that way we are missionaries to the broken and lost people of this world.

    Those are my thoughts for the readings...blessings on all of you as you ponder where the Spirit is leading you.

  5. I love the analogy with the rules for a sonnet. Can anyone (that's you, English majors and poetry lovers!) help me out with diverse examples?

  6. Sometimes after I've read the intros on Tuesday I wish that I hadn't because they give me all new ideas that I didn't plan on. Hmph. This is one of those Tuesdays. I love the part about freedom within a form. I love it. I love the challenge to NOT use this passage to tell people to do more. I struggle with that a lot, and really thought about it as I was planning a message for the nursing home worship from which I just returned.

    I (loosely) used this passage in that setting today to proclaim God's presence with each person each day.

    Anyway, I certainly don't have things solidified yet, but I have been planning to work both with the John passage and the 1 Peter passage. I like the little nugget in 1 Pet 3:15 about hope. It's not by how they worship, or what they say, or what they eat, or when they pray that people may know they are Christians or different. It is by the hope that others see in them. I'm thinking there's a connection between the Spirit abiding in us and the hope that is visible in us. I'm going to run with that, I think.

    Unless I run in a different direction!

    Oh yeah - - and it's Confirmation Sunday here. The Spirit piece is PERFECT and I'm excited about wearing my red "Spirit" stole. It's my favorite!

  7. I really like your meditation today, LIsting (as last week). And here I was all set to preach on Paul's sermon at the Areopagus! If you love Jesus, tithe. great. And you are right, obey is a landmine kind of word, but it needn't stop us from using it.

    Maybe if we put obey with trust, we would get the right idea about what Jesus is talking about.

  8. she rev- I too like the 1 Peter passage, and have preached on "the hope that is in you" passage before. will be interested in your developing thoughts.

  9. I love the rules and sonnet analogy too. I have another one for you. Several years ago, I had to take my mischievous stinker dog to obedience school. She didn't like it all that much (though she loved the treats). And, one day, my dog went blind, quite literally, overnight. But, because she had practiced obeying for those years, she could still walk, run, stay - she still had freedom to roam, because she had learned how to be obedient to the voice that always had her good in mind.

  10. I am preaching week 4 of a series on Being Church. I have spent most of my time in 1Peter, and this week is no exception.

    "Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;"

    I have been noticing signs of hope everywhere. (I've blogged about some of them.) We are called to be hopeful in season and out of season. This is counterintuitive to the way the rest of the world works.

    The epistle doesn't tell us to get hopeful, then defend it. It presupposes the hope. Do we?

  11. VoH,
    teh Wiki has a good post on the sonnet.

    MB Butler,
    Member, P.O.E.M.

  12. Whenever I hear this passage a song from my childhood runs through my mind. I think it was from the Boer War. We loved the tune and words - seemed to go with summer camp but now I wonder.

  13. For me it's Week 3 of a Henri Nouwen series, and we're up to "broken." I'm going to work with the gospel, beginning from the idea that if the disciples had stayed in the place of brokenness, there would have been no recognition of the blessing, just a nostalgia for their dreams of the past. I'm engaged by the idea that he will not leave us orphaned, or desolate, depending on the translation.
    LS, your stuff is so good, thank you.

  14. Gotta love Henri Nouwen, Songbird. That's some heavy stuff.

  15. I'm going back to last week and picking up the First Peter text on the living stones. For some reason that I do not now recall...but that's what the newsletter proclaims. I'll check out last Tuesday's lectionary leanings and the Saturday party stuff...that should get me going. It's already Tuesday? Yikes.

  16. Warning! Rant Ahead

    Last Saturday this church hosted a rally for UCW groups in the district. In the morning Beloved asks me if I think it would be alright if she and the kids came for lunch. Not my call so she asks the organizer.

    TOday the Chair of the Ministry & Personnel committee says "I hear your wife came for lunch" and then proceeds to explain how it was inappropriate for the girls to be there instead of with a babysitter and how the organizer was in such a tight spot and wouldn't say no...

    Well if they have trouble saying no that is their issue. And it has nothing to do with me and my work with teh M&P committee. Not a personnel issue. Mind you it fits the pattern that is developing of people complaining throught he M&P committtee about how the minister's family acts. ANd what's with the "your wife"?

    SOrry to hijack comments, but needed to vent.

  17. Anyway, it is camping Sunday here this week. And since I was preparing a service for a number of churches in the area to mark the occassion my PowerPoint sermon is already done.

  18. Gord, do you have a resource at the denominational level to help you with this church situation? It sounds like it's just getting stickier. A sounding board familiar with your governance practices could be really helpful.
    Also, it's okay to rant here when needed!

  19. I think I am going with the idea of love as a way of life, a choice we make in how we live, vs. an emotion that we feel. There have been some prayer requests by children in my congregation for dogs lately and I am thinking of using the dog as an example of living love. We'll see what actually happens though.


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