John 15:9-10, NIV

9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now
remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will
remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's
commands and remain in his love."


January 4, 2012
The well is dry. I don't know what more to say about loving and

remaining. Jesus is starting to repeat himself. But until I do as
he
instructed, until I obey him, I have not really heard him.

Jesus said: I have loved you as God has loved me. What I have
received, I now share with you. And in verse 12: "Love each
other as
I have loved you." Somehow we don't match up to the
standard
Jesus set for us. Did he really expect us to?

Sometimes love hurts, takes, fails to endure, is conditional.
Love like
God's heals, gives, lasts forever, is unconditional. I am
to love as
God loves me.

I am a child of God and Jesus instructs me to love, with no
excuses.
I love, not because the other person is lovable or even
nice but,
because of who I am. Whether I like the person or think
they deserve
my love is not the standard. Love is given on the
basis of need and
everyone needs to be loved.


January 5, 2012
There's another way to think about these words. Jesus loved the

disciples as the Father loved him. How the Father actually loved
Jesus
was about to come into question. To anyone who watched
the next
12 hours unfold, God must surely have seemed to be
very much
absent, and unloving. Therefore when Jesus told the
disciples he
loved them as the Father loved him, they should
beware. It reminds
me of the phrase Dietrich Bonehoffer used
when he said the invitation
to discipleship is a summons to
"Come and die."

Tradition tells us the disciples did indeed die because of their
witness
concerning Jesus. All but one met a violent, gruesome
death. Just as
Jesus obeyed the Father, so these disciples were
obedient to the end. 
Yet doesn't it seem odd to us that Jesus
would follow immediately 
with talk of joy. Loving as Jesus
loved plus obedience leads directly 
to joy!

 

                                        John 15:11-12, NIV
11 "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that
your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each
other as I have loved you."

 

January 6, 2012
I came across this entry in my journal dated July 1, 1983:

Last evening I talked to our teenage daughter about the Church
being
not a group of hand-picked delightful persons that I naturally
like to be
around, but a place where all of us with our various
handicaps,
eccentricities, and warts gather together and learn
what it means
to "love one another."

What we learn is to accept, appreciate, tolerate and encourage
each
other. It's possible to change another person by changing
our attitude
toward them, by accepting Jesus' command to love
them, by seeing
the negatives as the point at which our faith
really begins to work.
In some people the flaws are so obvious
and our work begins as
together we discover their gifts and
appreciate them as brothers
and sisters, God's special gift to
all who will love them.

Shirley is a 10 year old child inside a 40 year old body. Who
needs her?
Who would choose to associate with our poor,
deformed neighbor
who struggles with every step? Who wants
to hang out with some of
the people we work with who have
next to nothing going for them? 
This is a difficult concept for
Christians to learn.

The Church is not a club grouped together because we're nice,
stimulating, easy to get 
along with people. Being a Christian
community is hard and takes 
much more than a casual commitment.
We just don't like to be 
around people who add nothing to our
lives but discomfort. But here 
we have Jesus' command to love
each other--the poor, the blind, 
the ornery, the ungrateful and the
unlovely--as he loved us when 
we were poor, blind, ornery,
ungrateful and unlovely.

When we do this, Jesus has promised us joy. His joy. Complete joy.
I think down deep we understand this and have experienced it. Such
as in times when we forgot about our own wants and lost ourselves
in a meaningful connection with someone else. Here's one example.
After the last flood that came through Manheim, I was randomly
assigned to help a stranger clean out her ruined basement. It was
very hard work, but as I walked home that day I knew the joy Jesus
was talking about.

 

                                        John 15:13-15, NIV
13 "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life
for his friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not
know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned from my Father I have made
known to you."


January 8, 2012
What is the greatest possible blessing, or compliment? To be
called
a friend of Jesus. Jesus not only laid down his life for his
friends. He
did so for his enemies, too. Who was it who said the
way to be rid
of your enemies is to make them your friends

One never knows ahead of time how he or she will react in an
emergency. I don't know if I would give my life to save another
one.
I like to think, though, that since I am approaching my 7th
decade, that
I would step aside and give younger people
preference if I ever found
myself in a situation where only
some could be rescued. But who
knows how they would react.

Love turns servants into friends. Every year a group of
construction
workers and helpers from our local congregation
travel south on what
is known as the Appalachian Service Project.
When they return home
and report on their happenings, it becomes
clear it might better be
named the Appalachian Friendship Project.
When strangers become
friends, there is much joy.

Within the intimacy of friendship, secrets are shared. Things not
known by the general public are confided to friends. Jesus did that
with his disciples. Everything he learned from the Father he
revealed to them.

 

                                         John 15:16-17, NIV
16 "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed
you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father
will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my
command: Love each other."


January 9, 2012
I taught a Sunday School lesson yesterday taken from the story of

Joseph in Genesis. Joseph was favored by God and men, and even
eventually by the Pharaoh. As his story unfolds, the writer repeats
several times that God was with him. Those reminders are necessary
because what we are reading is that Joseph's brothers were wanting
to kill him but decided to sell him to slave traders instead. Does
slavery sound like God's favor!

Years passed. Then we read that Joseph was unfairly accused of
raping his master's wife. That landed him in prison. But God was
with
him--the writer seems compelled to add that line. More time
passed.
Finally, when Joseph was 30 years old, he emerged from
the dungeon
and into the bright light of the Egyptian palace.

As the story goes, Joseph was chosen by God to save that region
of
the world from starvation caused by a severe famine. It was
Joseph
who managed the stockpiling of grain during the seven
years of plenty
so that there would be food during the seven
years of famine.

Joseph, favored and chosen by God. A Hebrew slave in an
Egyptian
culture. A prisoner in a foreign land. Yet God was
with Joseph--in
slavery, in prison--many, many years until the
time was right and he
emerged as the one best suited to assume
the great responsibility
assigned to him.

Joseph, who retained his faith in the God of his fathers when it
would
have been much easier to assimilate. Who grew in stature,
in wisdom,
in management skills, despite those undesirable
conditions. Joseph,
who was a pruned branch, nurtured by the
vine, bore much fruit
and fed more than one nation.

Toward the end of the story Joseph even exemplified the command
to
love one another. He forgave his brothers, assuring them they
had
nothing to fear from him. He told them, "You intended to
harm me, but
God intended it for good to accomplish what is
now being done, the
saving of many lives."

God's favor does not make for an easy life. Many days, even
years
may be tough. But Jesus bids us to remain, abide, wait.
Nurtured by
the vine, we grow in faith as our gifts and graces
mature. When fully
prepared the buds form and good fruit
will once more feed the earth.


January 10, 2012
I might take issue with Jesus saying, "You did not choose me,
but
I chose you . . ."  In order for the disciples to be chosen, did
they not
have to choose to accept their assignment? Every time
we say "yes"
to God's grace, are we not making the choice to
love and be grateful?

Granted, God loved us first, but we have to want to be loved by God
in order for there to be a working relationship. We must abide in the
vine if we are going to bear fruit. That sounds like "choosing" to me.
Or some might say that's just responding to God's initiatives.

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