the one about the new commandment...
May 20, 2019, 12:00 AM

Sermon from May 19, 2019

Text: John 13: 31-35

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

So, we get this reading again – we haven’t read this since Thursday of Holy Week. Where, we got the more complete story of Jesus’ last night with his disciples. It was that evening that we heard of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and this morning we focus in a bit more on what he says next.

After Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, models for them what it means to serve in the kingdom of God, and tells them of what is about to happen to him, he gives a bit more to what it means to serve and love the way in which God is asking of them and us.

Jesus says: I give you a new commandment.

Now, we don’t know how long or even if there was a pause between that phrase and when Jesus continues, but imagine there is a pause, even if just for a moment.

The friends surrounding Jesus are faithful Jews. They follow the Torah. They know scripture. They’ve been taught under Jesus who has a command and authority over scripture that they’ve never heard before. They and so many others are captivated by his ability to interpret these ancient and holy words into something new, different, and life-giving in ways they and others have never thought.

They are those who not only follow rules, but also those who follow rules in new ways.

When Jesus says that he has a new commandment for them. I can only imagine how their minds quickly raced through what that might mean. What could this new commandment be? How will it differ from the commandments they already have – the ones given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The ones that the prophet handed to the people. Those rules that the people and nation of Israel – the disciples themselves – at times just had a hard time following.

Finally, Jesus is going to give a new commandment – one that will surpass all those old ones that are so hard to keep and follow.

So, Jesus – Lord, our friend – what is this new commandment?

In the words of the Beatles – “All you need is love.”

Really? That’s it? Just love one another? How is that new? How is that different from what we already have? How do we do that?

When you think about it, what Jesus asks for doesn’t seem that difficult. Just love people. How hard is that?

Have you seen the world – it’s pretty hard sometimes. Right?

I remember in my first call talking to an adult bible study class about this very text. Hearing from a sweet and dear older woman in that group say, “I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s easy being a Christian – just love people, go to church, and be happy. How hard is that?”

Of course, on paper that seems really easy. It’s even easier to say it.

I just love people. What’s difficult about all that?

But, it becomes difficult when you realize that people find it much easier to ‘love’ those who are similar to them. Those who look like them, those who act like them, those who love like them, those who believe like them, those who work like them, those who cheer for the same team/people/organizations like them.

It’s much easier to love people who we like. It’s much easier to love people who we agree with. It becomes rather difficult when we try to start loving people that are different from who we believe our selves to be even if just a little bit different.

Things we would let slide if folks were ‘similar’ to us, we home in on and demand they be perfect. Even though we wouldn’t follow the same advice.

Or perhaps we speak of love in one breath, but then speak of hate, death, and more in the next because someone is different, or caused some sort of pain, or they give an idea that is contrary to how we’d like to see something take place.

We’ve all done that. No one is guiltless when it comes to those actions.

It’s hard to love people. This whole life of following Jesus would be so much easier, if it wasn’t for all the people.

But, thankfully – there are other people. There are others who challenge us, confront us, inspire us, lead us, change us. They do all that as they live into the life that Jesus has called us into. We are invited to deepen our life in what Jesus shares with us by being with them, loving them, serving with others.

Jesus says, that they’ll know we are his disciples if we have love for one another.

It isn’t about doctrinal statements. That doesn’t make us disciples of Jesus.

It isn’t about traditions in our churches. That doesn’t make us disciples of Jesus.

It isn’t about how well you know scripture. That doesn’t make us disciples of Jesus.

Love – as commanded by Jesus, makes us disciples. The love that we have received from God. The love that we share and live out around us. That is how others will know that we are disciples of the Son of God.

Jesus’ commandment to love – I believe – transcends those things that we like to think make us true disciples. Because, without love, what good are they?

As people, we are always going to naturally gather with those who are like-minded. That isn’t necessarily bad. But, when we start gathering with only people we agree with, refusing to acknowledge, serve with, be around, talk to, or simply love those who are different from us, we fail at the commandment that Jesus calls us into.

Being united with folks, doesn’t mean we are all uniform in our identities. We have a habit of only loving folks who are exactly like us and refusing to extend even the simplest of ‘love’ to those who differ even slightly from who we are.

Loving in the way that Jesus commands of us, isn’t easy. But it is needed. When it proves rather difficult, when we fail and fall short of loving all of God’s children around us, Jesus is still there with us. For remember, Jesus told all the disciples what was about to happen, he’s about to tell Peter how he’ll deny even knowing his Lord. Yet, Jesus still sticks with them. Jesus still walks with them. Jesus still forgives them. Jesus still returns to them and offers his peace.

God’s love for us through Jesus the Son sticks with us, even when we mess up. Constantly calling us to love deeper, to expand our love, to crumble our walls and shatter the boundaries between us and them. Surrounding each of us with others who help us to love, who challenge us to love, who inspire us to love.

All you need is love, right?

Recently, I read of a story about someone who was going around and asking people if they were Christians. Why? Who knows – people do weird things on the street who are captivated by faith.

This person approaches a woman in town and asks the question, “Are you a Christian, ma’am? Are you?”

Her response was rather peculiar. She said, “Why ask me if I’m a Christian, I could tell you anything. I could tell you just what you want to hear.

But, instead of asking me if I’m a Christian. Why don’t you ask my neighbor, the store clerk, the hurting one, the immigrant, the people around me. Ask them and they’ll give you your answer.”

Isn’t that what Jesus tells us this morning? If you have love for one another, everyone will know that you are one of my disciples. Amen.

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