“All you need is Love” as the familiar Beatles Tune goes. What does it mean to love? To love our Neighbor. To love our country. To love our enemies. To Love God?
1st John chapter 4 is one of my most favorite and challenging passages
1 John 4:7-21
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So, we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
There are several things that this passage tells us about love.
Love is always the first. We often forget that: we put conditions or prerequisites on love. I’ll love you when, or I’ll love you if. These build barriers and prevents us from loving others and even prevents us from thinking we are loved. God loved us first. That is the gospel.
Why does loving first matter? With God, or with other people in your life
Our love of God is reflected in our love of others. Martin Luther in his small catechism, reminds us clearly of this in every explanation of the 10 Commandments. In every instance, we are reminded that we are to love God, SO THAT we can love and serve our neighbor. This is seen clearly as an example in the 4th commandment of honoring father and mother in which Luther explains “We should fear and love God so that we may not despise nor anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve, obey, and hold them in love and esteem.”
Would others know how much you loved God based on your actions?
Love is alive and active. To me, this passage encapsulates what the love of Jesus is. We celebrate a God who is not distant but alive and incarnate in the world around us. Love is not an object we can possess; it is an action that first comes from God and is then given to us so that it can be shared. Love is a verb that is experienced. As we are loved, we change, and as we love others, they are changed. For most people, the only way for them to know the love of God in Christ Jesus is through your actions.
A line from a St Francis prayer of peace states, “For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” Do you find this to be true? Does this passage express this sentiment?
On Pentecost Sunday June 9th, we celebrate the Holy Spirit’s miraculous manifestation in the wind, tongues of fire and the disciples speaking many languages. What a dramatic scene to think about. If such a thing were to happen in our church today, we might be like those in the crowd and say, “they must be drunk or something.”
We can become settled in our ways and our understanding of what God is doing. Other times I think we are waiting for a dramatic moment like this one in Acts. We can be resistant to the Holy Spirit with a sense of, we’ve done that before, or we can’t do that here. That’s crazy.
One thing I know for certain is that the Holy Spirit is continually moving and being poured out upon God’s people if we just have pay attention.
When we read the 3rd Article of the Apostle’s Creed:
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
We are invoking the Holy Spirit. The one who makes us a community of believers unites with all the saints past and present. We are claiming the power of forgiveness and resurrection. Woah! Martin Luther reminds just what this powerful gift is for us.
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
This is most certainly true.
The Holy Spirit gives us the wonderful gift of faith. We are also reminded of the many other gifts we are given. In our hymnals on pg. 231 these words are read to all being baptized:
Stir up in this person the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, the spirit of Joy in your presence, both now and forever. Amen.
This is my prayer for all of you. Take some time to read this prayer. Read it with your name in the prayer. These gifts have already been given TO YOU. If you feel like you don’t have them, pray for them again. God daily gives you what you need. Baptism is a wonderous and continuous gift. It more than just a sprinkling of water on your head. It is God’s promise being made to you through water and the word. It is the Holy Spirit poured out on you, forever! You have gifts of wisdom and understanding, Counsel and strength, Joy in God’s presence.
The Good News of Jesus and the wonderful Gifts of the Holy Spirit are intended for all people. Just as God made it possible for people many languages the ability to hear the Good News through the Disciples. God makes it possible for us to be witnesses of God’s amazing love for all who need to hear it. God’s Holy Spirit calls, gathers, strengthens, and gives us faith, hope and joy in a world in which they can be difficult to find.
How are you using the gift of the Holy Spirit? How are you helping others recognize these gifts in themselves?
The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) is one of the best-known Post-Resurrection stories from the Gospels. As we continue in the Season of Easter, we continue to make sense of what it means the Christ is Risen.
On the Road, Two disciples who are still baffled and confused by how quickly Jesus was caught up in scandal, executed and apparently rose from the dead. I would be hard pressed to comprehend what all took place. In their confusion, Jesus shows up and points them to the bigger picture. We often get so focused on our immediate circumstances we lose sight of what God has done and what God is doing. In the coming weeks take a moment to lift up your head from current circumstances and allow God to paint a bigger picture.
In this story, we are also reminded that God promises to show up. They didn’t notice Jesus as he quietly listened and then spoke words of hope and compassion. They noticed Jesus when he broke bread with them. What are those moments in your life in which God is revealed? Sometimes I see God revealed in a kind word from a stranger, a note from an old friend when I’m feeling down, or just playing with my daughter who is the embodiment of wonder. I also know as Lutherans, we have faith that God shows up at the Communion Table every Sunday. We know that God shows up in the water and the word at Baptism. Martin Luther reminds us to remember our Baptism when we wash our face or take a show. Christ’s love is there.
Among the many things that Resurrection teaches us, it is that Christ is always with us. As Romans 8:38-39 assures us “ For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Read the Road to Emmaus Story. What do you see? How do you live in Christ’s Love every day? How can you show and remind others of this love? That is the Good News.
I am always amazed at how quickly time passes. We have started Lent and In April comes Holy Week and Easter. I wanted to offer some insight into Holy Week. Holy Week is a celebration and remembrance of Jesus’ Journey toward the Cross.
Holy week begins on April 14th this year. Palm Sunday. We read a processional Gospel of Jesus entering into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. While Jesus had been to Jerusalem many times in his life. This time it was different for Jesus. His Arrival this time was meant to fulfill scripture and brought attention to his teachings in a new way. Much like candidates throwing their hat in the ring for a political race. Jesus triumphant arrival makes a statement. While our church just reads Jesus arrival in Jerusalem. Many Churches have the practice of reading the whole Passion of Christ on the Sunday before Easter.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday don’t have any particular significance in the church but some churches read various passages related to Jesus foreshadowing the events of Good Friday. Community will have a time of open prayer on Wednesday from Noon to 5 with some readings and guided reflections at the beginning of the hour.
Maundy Thursday we celebrate the lasting gathering of Jesus with his disciples. We wash our feet as a sign of humility and imitation of Christ. After the Eucharist the washing of feet is one of the oldest rituals we have as Christians.
We celebrate the Eucharist or Communion as Jesus tells us to remember him.The events of the Last Supper are recorded as happening around the time of the passover meal. We must note that the modern Jewish Seder began after Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 70AD. The passover meal Jesus and his disciples celebrated may have been similar to the modern seder but as Christians we have a tradition the Eucharist. While informative to our own faith, the Seder is strictly a Jewish tradition.
The Maundy Thursday Service often concludes with a stripping of the Altar to remember the burial of Jesus.
People often wonder why we call the day we remember Jesus’ death on the Cross “Good” Friday. It is because we have hope in the Resurrection. Of course to have resurrection, death needs to happen first.
Our Tradition at Community has been to read the Passion Narrative. On Sundays we often only read snippets of the Gospel. Good Friday is one of the few times we read through a large portion of the Gospels and get to fully hear the story of Jesus. Jesus journey to the cross is long and arduous. I urge to you listen carefully to what happens to Jesus. We often are quick to go from the Cross to Easter Sunday but Good Friday intentional makes us journey with Jesus toward the cross and makes us listen and know Jesus’ death intimately. That Jesus suffered and died for our sin. Because of this, The hope of Resurrection is all the more joyous and hopeful when we experience it on Easter Sunday.
May your Holy Week be truly Holy and Transformative.
March this year is the start of the Lenten Season. Lent is a time for self-reflection and examining not only our lives but the life of Jesus on his journey toward the cross of Good Friday with the Hope of the Resurrection on Easter.
This year we will be exploring what it means to encounter the Gospels with our senses — touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell. Our senses are how we make sense of the world around us. We often read the stories of Jesus and we have lots of ideas about what Jesus means to us in our head. However, Jesus is the incarnate word, the word made flesh. He embodies the hope and love of God. How do you experience Jesus in your daily life? Every Wednesday this Lent we will explore the gospels through our senses. By touch through the anointing of oils and prayer. By Sight as we study the rich images of the Gospel through Icons and Art. By Sound as we confess our sins aloud and hear the words “You are Forgiven.”
By taste as we partake in the Bread and Wine of communion and By Smell as we pray together using diffused essentials oils similar to the burning of incense.
We worship a living God. Through these simple acts of worship, we experience God as present with us, not just in thought but through all our senses. Worship becomes embodied as we sense the world around us. My prayer this Lent is that you experience God. That your senses of Touch, Sight, Sound, Taste, and Smell expand how God is present in your life every day.
Here are the Gospel Stories will we look at:
Jesus raises the widow’s son – Touch – Luke 7:11-17
Jesus heals the blind man at Bethsaida – Sight – Mark 8:22-25
Jesus changes water into wine – Taste – John 2:1-10
Jesus says the dead will hear – Hearing - John 5:25-29
Jesus anointed with perfume – Smell - John 12:1-3
Take some time to examine what Jesus is doing and saying in these passages. How do our senses fit into the story?
Posts from various People reflecting on How Christ intersects with daily Life.