Weekly Sunday church services have been cancelled until further notice. You can hear a service every Sunday on The Lutheran Hour by tuning into 970 AM radio at 7:30 a.m. or 104.9 FM radio at 7:00 p.m. The Lutheran Hour’s services are also available on their website: https://www.lhm.org/
Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 2, 2021
Prayer of the Day – O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live. Nourish our life in his resurrection, that we may bear the fruit of love and know the fullness of your joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
First Reading – Acts 8:26-40
Psalm – Psalm 22:25-31
Second Reading – 1 John 4:7-21
Gospel – John 15:1-8
Sermon – In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The text for this Fifth Sunday of Easter is taken from 1 John 3:16-24. (vs. 16) “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
Many people in the past and today think that they know what love is all about. They actually only know a certain type of love which in some cases isn’t love at all. When someone “falls in love” with another person, that feeling of love could be mixed with physical attraction, social attraction, or monetary attraction. Believe it or not, in one way or another, everybody loves. Even the worst people in history loved. But on our own, most of the time the object of our love is self. It comes from self-preservation. When we love something, it’s generally because it brings us pleasure. When we hate someone or something, it’s generally because it is a threat to us. But is love or self really love at all?
An example of failed human love is in Jesus’ description of the religious leaders of his day. Their true love was not directed to those God had given them to care for, but rather their love was directed toward themselves. Remember, “This is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” But we don’t.
The message of Easter reveals a different kind of love. It is a love that has “the other” as the object of its affection. It is a love that lays down one’s life for the sake of the other. It is not motivated by fear of loss, but rather it recognizes that it has received everything, and so it freely gives. When young couples fall in love, there isn’t much anyone can do to convince them that they are not right for each other. They get married and two years later, they are divorced. The old line they give is “we were young then.” In some cases, they hate each other but deny it. So what happened? You cannot always trust the “feeling” of love. It may not be true love.
A mother’s love for her child is a strong love, which is a good example of love. However, it doesn’t measure up to God’s love for us in that her love is for her own children. She does not have that same love for all children. Another point is we do not have to do anything to earn God’s love. When people tell us that they love us, it’s often followed by “because” and that word accompanied by something we did. For example, “I love you because you are always there for me.” Or, “I love you because you are such a good friend.” This is not wrong and it can make us feel good that we brought something good to someone else’s life.
But John is not talking about a love that we have earned. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, for while we were still weak…Christ died for the ungodly.” Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” We experience God’s love every time we gather around our Good Shepherd in the Word and Sacrament. In the Holy Communion Jesus gives you his love. When we receive absolution of our sins, it shows God’s love. At the same time, guilt and shame are gone. We should feel like a little child who was so worried about a parent being angry but later being told by Mom or Dad “don’t worry, I forgive you and will always love you!”
No doubt, there are members of society today who don’t care about God’s forgiveness. They don’t care about being forgiven by their parents or anyone else for that matter. This Godless attitude is where much of the crime comes from. As Lutherans, we have always understood that obedience to God’s commandments begins with the Father’s love for us in Jesus. The greatest love the universe has ever known is Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin. When you feel or try to love another, remember where that love fist came from. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.