EASTER 6, A – May 25,2014

SCRIPTURES – Ps.119:89-105; Acts 17:16-31; 1 Pet. 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

 

      [Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keepmy commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you anotherHelper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannotreceive.”

 Well, herewe are, preparing to celebrate another Memorial Day. How good and important itis to remember those men and women of the military who gave their lives inservice to their country. In service to us! May we honor their sacrifice inword and deed.

 Onesacrifice that particularly moves me was recalled in a Memorial Day ceremony Iattended in New Hampshire years ago. On February 3, 1943, the U.S.S.Dorchester, a troopship withover 900 soldiers and four chaplains on board, was torpedoed off the coast ofGreenland. After it was hit the chaplains were on deck, calming the frightened,tending the wounded and guiding the disoriented toward safety. One survivor,who found himself floating in oil-smeared water surrounded by bodies anddebris, recalled: "I could hear men crying, pleading, praying. I couldalso hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thingthat kept me going."  When the lifejackets ran out, they took off their own and placed them on waiting soldiers. Whenthe ship went down, the chaplains were the last men to be seen by witnesses. Theywere standing on deck arm-in-arm, each praying for the men.

 Why didthose chaplains do what they did? Was it because of some rule or regulationthey had learned while in training? I highly doubt it. Their faith in and loveof God and their love and concern for the men they served was surely what ledto their sacrifice.

 “If you love me, you will keep mycommandments,” Jesus says. Didyou notice that He did not then go on to list and define His commandments?Instead Jesus promised His followers that He, His Father and the Holy Spirit – the Triune God – would bewith them. His love would fill them and bring forth willing service, service thatwould honor God and help proclaim Him to people who did not know Him.

 How greatlyis such service needed today! In many ways our society is like the society theapostle Paul found in Athens. The people were very religious, for they not onlyhad altars to many different gods but even one to “the unknown god.” They werecovering all their bases! They were also continually searching for some newwisdom or teaching. How like people today! How many churches and temples are inthis city? How many different gods are worshiped? People also eagerly listen tonew stories about Jesus and desire new teachings and freedoms. What do we haveto give them?

 We do nothave a law-giver. Jesus is not a new Moses, bringing us more commandments fromGod. Nor is He a Plato or a Socrates who brings us wisdom. He is a Savior whoin love sacrificed Himself for us. He gave His life for us, and by so doing He hassaved us from eternal destruction and brought us eternal life.

 Only if youknow Jesus in this way will you know the love that lies behind all of His words,including God’s commandments, and so be moved to love them and follow them andlive them. Only if you know Jesus’ love and live in it will you be able to hearHim say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and not cringe or complain.

 Does Jesushave commandments? Well, on the one hand, no. He did not teach any new ones. But,He did carefully teach and live the Ten Commandments His Father had given. Hedid not change them or take anything away from them. By word and deed Heproclaimed them to be God’s good will for our lives. Those who are Christ’sfollowers know that they will be blessed as they also learn them and followthem.

 Only love knowsthis and experiences this. Love does not need to be told what to do, for itgladly and willingly does before it is commanded to do. And, it is only lovethat brings forth love of God and willing obedience to Him.

Ø Childrenwill not learn to gladly worship unless they see their parents doing so.

Ø Friendswill not see the good in God’s commands if you only grudgingly follow them.They will not see the good in your church if you speak disparagingly of it.

 It was love– God’s love in Christ – that led the apostle Paul to stand before the wise menof Athens and tell them about a very different God, a “God who made the world andeverything in it, [who] does not live in temples made by man, nor is served byhuman hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to allmankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17) Because He loves, theone true God gives, and gives everything we need! We do not need to earn itor deserve it, for the God who gave His Son for us, even into our sins anddeath to save us from them, is a God of love. What a blessing it is to know Himand have His law, His good will for us! What a blessing it is to be able toserve Him by serving the people He has made!

 On thisMemorial Day weekend, as we rightly remember those men and women of ourmilitary who gave their lives for us and honor them for their sacrifice, weabove all honor and praise our God for the sacrifice of His Son, by which weare saved eternally. We honor Him with our love, expressed with our lips in ourworship and with our lives of obedience and service, even when – especiallywhen – we face rejection for that obedience and service. “Have no fear, nor be troubled,” saysthe apostle Peter, “but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always beingprepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hopethat is in you.” (1 Pet. 3) Our hope is great – in fact, it is eternal!– for Christ has died and risen for us and is now “at the right hand of God, withangels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” (1 Pet.1) Our sins are forgiven; our lives are safe with Him in God; and we have HisWord as “a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.” (Ps. 119:105)May the love it proclaims in Jesus shine brightly in our hearts and in ourlives, to the glory of God the Father!