Love.

John 13:31-35

The New Commandment

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 

33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

The Beatles sang this back in the 60’s.  We all know it, yet it’s hard for us to understand it.  Love is a word that gets thrown around a lot.  But, at its core, it’s a relational term.  I believe it is embodied fully in Jesus’ actions and attitudes with each of us.

What does Jesus’ love look like?  Oftentimes I’m asked at weddings to read the “love chapter” found in 1 Corinthians 13.  It has beautiful poetry, but it’s not about love between two persons…no one can love that way except for God.  It’s a chapter describing perfect love, sit back, close your eyes, soak in some of these words as if God is speaking directly to you:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Wow.  And, this is what Jesus is saying to us.  Live, or abide, remain in my love.  As my spiritual director reminds me, it is abiding love with us..Jesus isn’t going anywhere, as a matter of fact, Jesus is present with us in this room, right now, and is chasing after us…won’t give up on us.

Jesus was and is present with each of us.  It’s hard, I know, but when we begin to move towards understanding ourselves, asking the really hard questions and confronting the things in our lives that prevent us from experiencing the abundant life that we talked about last week, in knowing who we are and who God, we can begin to truly be present with ourselves, others, and God.  We begin to experience love.  

A couple of years ago, on my birthday during a COVID surge, I gathered with close friends from all over the world for a birthday celebration on Zoom.  It was fun, and then it got serious…one of them asked me what I wanted out of life, I simply said “presence”.  Apparently they wanted something more tangible in their minds…I’ve since realized how important presence really is…it allows me to love myself, others, and to grow in God’s love flowing in and all around me.  

One of the places I go to practice “presence” is the Abbey of Gethsemani as many of you know.  We’ve mentioned this before, but the monks there pray for three things every day:  stability, conversion, and obedience.  Jesus, in this morning’s passage commands us to love God.  An act of obedience is to love, and to love well.  As we do that, we begin to understand deeply that Jesus is truly our friend and that leads to other friendships.

Friendship means a lot to me.  As your pastor, I have made a commitment in my vows to be your friend, to love you.  And, in your vows when you called me here, you committed to be my friend, and to love me. 

As I practice friendship, sometimes in beautifully messy ways!  I find that our friendships leads towards common aims.  Many of my friends in this city and around the world are all working towards seeing goodness happen in communities.  And we are asl well, as our church is partnering with others for that goodness, out of love, like we did with Cincy4Ukraine, with Tikkun Farm, with Valley Interfaith…we are being a place of generosity and momentum towards others and each other.  

Sometimes we may think that we’d like to simply shirk away from friendship, from being present.  Yet, Jesus reminds us that God’s glory is wrapped up in our glory, in our being fully alive.  And that Jesus is in that process with us…there are times when we have to realize that our view of Jesus changes, we don’t recognize him sometimes as he says in this passage today.  

Friends, a practical takeaway from what I’m sharing is this…YOU are loved, God is present with you, cultivate that understanding, and know that God desires for the best for you…and for this church.

I think that’s why I’m so confident about Fleming Road UCC.  We will move towards a great story…we are on the crusp of amazing personal and corporate growth as a church, and as persons!  Believe it…accept it.  Receive this love and bear fruit!

And, remember these words:

All you need is love (All together, now!)
All you need is love (Everybody!)
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)

Jesus embodies this love, Jesus is here, present with you through his spirit the Holy Spirit, that connects all of us and all of this…and ultimately keeps us firmly in the Presence of Jesus even as Jesus is present with us.

May we love one another and our neighbors (which means everyone) well!  And, as we do, as Jesus reminds us this morning, the world around us will know that we are truly Jesus followers!

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