And I have declared unto them thy name and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26 KJV)
Jesus declares the name of the creator God.
o “In him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9 KJV)
God's love that is in Christ is also in us. The command of Christ to love others as Jesus loves us. But how can we do this when we don't even know that much about what love is? And even we've spent our whole life studying it and trying to figure it out and trying to live it out in our own lives. The answer is that we are endued with power from on high, as Jesus promised at his ascension, not to love in whatever ways we think might be best, but to love as we have been loved and as we are loved by Christ.
Transcript of the sermon preached on May 29, 2022, at Briensburg UMC | [Audio Podcast]
Paul phrased it also in his letter to the Colossians, “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 KJV) The power of love is not ours, it's God's. We are enveloped with the eternal, universal, unconditional love of Christ. We will spend the rest of eternity living into this life of perfect love. As we love others the way that Christ has loved us, they are connected to this same eternal, universal, unconditional love that we are sharing. We are loving each other into the Kingdom of God just as others have loved us into the Kingdom of God and just as Christ is loving us into Heaven.
We plant the seeds of illumination and fulfillment that others have planted in us
The psalmist wrote, Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. (Psalm 97:11 KJV)
And as it is phrased in the Message: Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people, Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil. (Psalm 97:11 MSG) Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world." And Nehemiah said, "The joy of the Lord is my strength."
Seeds of love are sown in us and through us. Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed to illustrate how the tiniest seed of faith grows and bushes out to the benefit of all creatures. There are several other cases in the New Testament where Jesus spoke of these seeds being planted. He told the parable of the seed sown on different types of soil to illustrate the different ways the seeds of love are received that are beyond our control. Ours is to plant the seeds. We can't control how people will respond or when, but we know that they will in all different ways. And as Paul affirmed, “one plants, another waters, and God gives the growth.”
Knowles Shaw expressed that in his 1874 hymn.
Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves
Experiencing how Jesus loves us makes us want to love others that way
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. (Acts 16:33 KJV)
The Good news translates this verse:
At that very hour of the night, the jailer took them and washed their wounds; and he and all his family were baptized at once. (Acts 16:33 GNT)
Immediately, this person rushed to start doing good and loving and kindness, attending to the wounds of their imprisonment and exacerbated a little bit probably by the earthquake, and in gratitude for their doing good to him in not running off which kept him out of trouble.
The second general rule of the United Methodist Church is "Do good." From the earliest days of Methodism, this saying has been handed down:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
We might not always know what to do, but we have this compulsion to do what we can. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:5, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us."
The jailer in today's reading was baptized immediately. The sacrament of baptism is an outward and visible sign pointing to an inward and invisible grace. Our souls are indelibly marked as those who have forever become connected with each other in the Body of Christ and are growing in the knowledge and grace and love of Jesus. We might tend to consider it as a sign of our faith in God, but even that faith comes to us as a free gift from God. So baptism is, even more, a sign of God's faith in us than our faith in God. In our baptismal ritual, those being baptized make a commitment to the church, but the weight of the covenant is the commitment made by the whole church to support and encourage each other and our new member in faith and love.
It said that his whole family, perhaps including even his extended family and servants and others who shared his house, were baptized with him. I was struck by this passage when it says, as it was being read, how it said that he and his whole family believed and were baptized. There are several other cases in the New Testament where not just individuals but whole households were baptized together.
Another striking part of this story was not only that they believed and were baptized, but that the promise was made when the jailer asked, "What should I do?" And Peter said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you'll be saved." But then he went on to say, "you and your whole family." It was part of the whole promise. It didn't just happen. It was part of the promise. You and your whole family are included in this. You and your whole household. You can extend that just as far as your heart is able. You and your whole bunch.
That includes a lot of people, doesn't it? When you think about your whole circle of the people you love and who is really family to you. It didn’t try to limit that in any way. It didn't just say, "The ones currently who have registered your addresses as theirs, or who have a biological relationship, or who live in the building there," but your household.
How far do you extend your heart? Well, that's how far the love of Christ extends through you, and that brings people, and encompasses them, and connects them with the body of Christ. Some of those might be fragile connections, admittedly, but it's a connection. It's a start. It's the mustard seed Jesus spoke of. Because we're a family, we're a network, a connection of people who are conscious that God loves us and invites us to love each other the same way Christ loves us.
We're not sent in the Great Commission to go place conditions on other people to make them conform to our culture or our politics or our way of thinking or our preferences about anything. We're sent to make disciples, to introduce everyone to God's love in Christ so they can feel it for themselves and grow in their own personal relationships with God who is in Christ, who is in us.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19 KJV)
I turn now to the last page of the Bible. After that, it says "Bible Helps" in my Bible, with some maps and things like that, but the very last page of the Bible...
We freely extend to everyone the invitation to love as Christ loves
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17 KJV)
The parable of the wedding feast emphasized this directive from Jesus to,
“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23 KJV)
These others had their chance and they turned it down. They will come around eventually, but meanwhile, we won't just sit around waiting for them to get ready. We'll keep the invitation open for them even as we intentionally seek out those who are ready to join us in spreading love and advocating for God's Kingdom to come and God's will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Bill Gaither wrote the song, "Get all excited. Go tell everybody that Jesus Christ is King." Wouldn't it be great to flash mob Briensburg United Methodist Church? Or flash mob Heaven? Here's a place where everyone loves each other. Look around the room. We all love each other. Amen? Plus we love everyone else, too. Amen? Come on. Let's build a community of love right here, right now. Pass the word as fast as you can, let everyone know that the doors and hearts of our congregation are wide open and all of our facilities and resources and structures are here for one thing and one thing only: to spread God's perfect, universal, unconditional love.The great invitation of Jesus is,
In this context, our congregation offers this inclusiveness statement to clarify that
We invite everyone to share fully in the worship services, life, ministry, and leadership of Briensburg United Methodist Church inclusive of age, race, nationality, gender, LGBTQ, theology, politics, and legal status.
Everybody might not be ready to receive that, to accept that invitation, but we're ready to extend it, aren't we?
And as we do, the seeds are planted, seeds of love and kindness that will grow. And who knows how they will grow besides God? Who knows who else will plant seeds, who else will water, and how the growth will come? But our part is to extend the invitation, to plant the seeds, to love as Christ has loved. And that's what it means in this last page of the Bible, as I read again this last invitation, not only to come but to invite others to come.
“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride. Whoever hears, echo, “Come!” Is anyone thirsty? Come! All who will, come and drink, Drink freely of the Water of Life! (Revelation 22:17 MSG)
In the name of Jesus, amen.