Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This morning we woke up to a foggy morning, but after struggling to get out for runs this week, I really wanted to go. Pam wanted to go as well, but she walked the track at the Y. I took the Allegheny Valley River Trail and was very surprised. To say that my runs have been slow of late would be an understatement. Over the last two weeks, I have not cracked the 11 minute mile barrier. Today I started out and hit a 10:40 on the first mile and that pace continued all the way through. I was very happy. Along my run I met quite a few squirrels and chipmunks. They are always cute to watch. I only have 12 miles for the week, so that means I’m really going to have to kick it up a notch for the remainder of the month if I want to hit 108 miles. I’m currently at 46. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. With all of that said, I continue to Press On!
31 As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
John 13:31-35 New Living Translation (NLT)
During this season of Easter, we return to a passage that we normally read during Holy Week. It is this passage that gives us the word Maundy, which comes from the word mandate or commandment.
Jesus has gathered with his disciples just before his crucifixion. Jesus has already told the disciples that one of them will betray him and another would deny him. John tells us that Jesus spoke these works after Judas left the room. The disciples are – I believe – fearful of the events to come. It is over the next few chapters that John records Jesus speaking words of comfort to his disciples. Pam asked this question during a sermon during Lent: “If you had only an hour with your closest friends before you died, what would you tell them?”
Interesting at this point, Jesus says, “I am giving you a new commandment.” The disciples would have been quite aware of the Jewish commandments – very familiar with what we call the ten commandments – very familiar with what we call the great commandment – “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength AND you should love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus even added, “This commandment sums up the law and the prophets. Everything that was contained in the Old Testament can be summed up with these few words. It is ironic then that Jesus says, “I am giving you a new commandment.” It’s really not much more different than the greatest command that they already know. Jesus tells his disciples to love one another because through their love the world will know that they are disciples of Jesus.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
I want you to read that again…Let it sink in. How do we prove that we are disciples of Jesus? We might argue that if we have the right doctrine…if we have the right worship style…if we give the right amount of money to the church…we will prove to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples. But Jesus tells us that we should love one another. To me it seems like many Christians – brothers and sisters in Christ, are angry at each other. We even see that in churches. We have all heard of churches that have split because of all kinds of ridiculous reasons. Is this really showing the love of Christ to each other and to the world? I don’t think so. Even today I was reminded how churches can chew someone up and spit them out.
Paul reminds us:
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-2
We are commanded by Jesus to love one another – even those who are hard to love – and by our love for one another we will prove to the world that we are his disciples.
“Prayer is not a way of being busy with God instead of with people. In fact, it unmasks the illusion of busyness, usefulness, and indispensability. It is a way of being empty and useless in the presence of God and so of proclaiming our basic belief that all is grace and nothing is simply the result of hard work. Indeed, wasting time for God is an act of ministry, because it reminds us and our people that God is free to touch anyone regardless of our well-meant efforts. Prayer as an articulate way of being useless in the face of God brings a smile to all we do and creates humor in the midst of our occupations and preoccupations.
Thinking about my own prayer, I realize how easily I make it into a little seminar with God, during which I want to be useful by reading beautiful prayers, thinking profound thoughts, and saying impressive words. I am obviously still worried about the grade! It indeed is a hard discipline to be useless in God’s presence and to let him speak in the silence of my heart. But whenever I become a little useless I know that God is calling me to a new life beyond the boundaries of my usefulness.”
It’s been a dreary day here in the Twin Tiers. We have seen rain most of the day and the skies have been grey except we have seen the sun try to peek through several times. We had a good service at McCrae Brook this morning. I preached that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Last evening, we went out to dinner with Pam. We tried out a local Chinese buffet that we’ve been to before. Yesterday, Pam and Anna hosted a Mad Hatter’s Tea at church. It looks like the ladies had a great time.
This week was spent working on some of our facilities. I bought a pack of ceiling tiles and used up all 8 tiles but the ceiling looks much better even though we need a few more. I also replaced a florescent lighting fixture with a new LED fixture and it looks awesome. We have two more (at least) to replace. I worked on our little prayer garden out front. In addition I had to take care of the lawn – it’s hard because it keeps raining.
This week I need to get ready for a few things. Our local baccalaureate service is coming up next Sunday and I need to pick the congregational songs. I am also leading worship at our monthly district pastor’s gathering and need to pick those songs as well.
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.