Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Toward Holy Love...

OUR LESSON for the Sixth Sunday in the Easter season brings us once again to the words of Jesus spoken in the Upper Room. The discourse concerning the vineyard, the True Vine and his grafted servants were words which were meant to teach the apostles. This lesson they heard concerned the relationships needed between apostolic Christians for the times to come. Thus we read…

“As the Father has loved me, so have I 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.”
                                                                                                            (John 15:9-17)

On Branching Out…
Saint John wrote out this extended conversation given by our Lord just before his crucifixion. Within this text then, we read that Jesus instructed his apostles to “love one another”. He added that this loving behavior needed to be done just as he had loved them. Therefore hearing this read from scripture, we as a people gathered today by the Holy Spirit know that the love spoken about was one that extended even unto Jesus' death and beyond. This is an extreme rootedness of a divine love poured out.
 You see, earlier in his ministry Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment. In answering, he made a solid statement concerning two commandments placed before the Jews. First, the apostles being Jews, were called to love God by adhering to the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments). This is God’s metric system that measures everyone.
 However, it is in this measurement that we humans find ourselves failing miserably. We fall short. We are then driven by our failures and resulting condemnation to seek our salvation through Christ. Finding him through grace and given faith only by the will of God, we can accept the gift purchased by the obedience of Jesus unto death. Salvation unto eternal life is acquired. Given this precious gift, we as Christians are therefore called forth to go beyond the Ten Commandments.
 Surely, we Christians receive from Jesus a more concise and demanding code of behavior. The two commands Jesus gave priority to take us far beyond the Law of Moses. Jesus called us to first love God above all. Second but no less important, we are also called to love one another just as we love ourselves. Thus we see our action is summed in our collective deeds toward one another.
 Why so? I believe that we need understand that this radical reduction of the Mosiac Law by Jesus accomplished several things in us. As Christians following in the footsteps of the apostles, we are placed subject to a higher Law. We are certainly called to love God beyond all else. But then, just as the instruction is grafted onto us, the second instruction to love one another without judgment is stated. Either task, however, exists far beyond our human reach. To accomplish either in any sense seems an impossibility. This perfect love needs be done by a power greater than our own. This sort of power can only come from a perfect God.
 You see, only with God working in us can we exert a love far beyond brotherly love (phileo). This sort is only attained by receiving the gift of divine love (agape). This love can only be given by God, as expressed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Miraculously, this was the gift given to the church through the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of God sent by our Lord Jesus Christ. About this a noted biblical scholar, Professor Robert Kysar stated…

“Humans must accept the gift of love extended to them in Christ if they are to benefit from a life in harmony with God. In v. 10, what is meant by accepting that gift is spoken of in different words—keep my commandments.” 

   (Kysar, R. (1986). John (p. 239). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.)

 Only by receiving and accepting this “holy love” mission from the Holy Spirit, can we Christians move forward as his church. In the gospel writer’s time at the turn of the first century the early church was asked to move beyond strife. You see, contentions arose early on between such persons as Saint Paul and Saint Peter in Galatia. The reminder written in this gospel record then called all Christians, therefore, to move past those early differences in faith expression given by either Jew or Gentile. Willingness to move in the Spirit toward expressive unity in orthodox, true proclamation made in accordance with a right understanding of Holy Scripture, was the measure through which the church could overcome great persecutions. As formed thus, history teaches that even the military might of ancient Rome could not crush the unified witness of the church.

Bear Heavenly Fruit!
So it is that we today are carried once again to challenges now looming large against the faith. By God’s love we are being led into and past realms of wilting death, as seen in recent atrocities against Christians around the world. By this love poured out, however, the world shall certainly know an expression of love that exist far beyond human understanding. We Christians are not called to work out lives of profit and self-fulfillment! Instead, we are called to die to our own measure of fullness and accept the full measure of love from Almighty God.
 Therefore like a vineyard fruit that is certainly grown to be eaten, we must know that we are to be like Jesus… consumed by the very task of loving mission. So it is that we work yet in evangelical purpose. Remember how Jesus taught his disciples concerning the Father’s will? In evangelical work we need only make requests for success before the Father’s throne, who surely is the Vineyard Keeper. These prayers of ours toward evangelical success shall be granted… and then some!
 The Christian church is thus reminded today through the Word spoken here, that divine Love was given perfectly by Jesus Christ. Knowing this, we find that to first love one another is central to the mission of the church. That love then intertwines around us like tendrils extending from the church to the world. . , so that we may express our hope and love to those approaching with hungry hearts.

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