John 13:31-35

John 13:31-35
When we love one another, we glorify Christ because his love is made visible through us, and when Christ's love is made visible through us, God is glorified. Isn't this remarkable? It is often the case—rightly or wrongly—that we assess the love of parents through their children's behavior. If a child shows respect for nature, we assume that his or her parents must have taken him or her on walks in the forest and told him or her the names of the birds. If a child develops compassion for the poor, we assume that his or her parents have talked to them about poverty and given him or her an opportunity to know those who are struggling. What's remarkable about such an assumption is that we tend to believe when we make such assessment that it has almost everything to do with the parent and little to do with the child.

Jesus calls his disciples little children. This strikes me as apt. God's love is so profound, so great, that it cannot be hidden away. God loves us so much that God will be glorified through us. Thanks be to God.

O God, your love is so profound that we cannot hold or contain it. Make your love ever more visible in us. Amen.
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John 13:31-35 (NRSV)

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."

1 Corinthians 11:24

"This do in remembrance of me."
1 Corinthians 11:24

It seems then, that Christians may forget Christ! There could be no need for this loving exhortation, if there were not a fearful supposition that our memories might prove treacherous. Nor is this a bare supposition: it is, alas! too well confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact. It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb, and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should forget that gracious Saviour; but, if startling to the ear, it is, alas! too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the crime. Forget him who never forgot us! Forget him who poured his blood forth for our sins! Forget him who loved us even to the death! Can it be possible? Yes, it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault with all of us, that we suffer him to be as a wayfaring man tarrying but for a night. He whom we should make the abiding tenant of our memories is but a visitor therein. The cross where one would think that memory would linger, and unmindfulness would be an unknown intruder, is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness. Does not your conscience say that this is true? Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of him upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should fix your eye steadily upon the cross. It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things which takes away the soul from Christ. While memory too well preserves a poisonous weed, it suffereth the rose of Sharon to wither. Let us charge ourselves to bind a heavenly forget-me-not about our hearts for Jesus our Beloved, and, whatever else we let slip, let us hold fast to him.

John 13:31-35

John 13:31-35
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas once wrote in his provocative style, "one of the hardest commandments is that Christians are to love one another—even if they are married." Loving others is always a challenge. And if we're honest, at times this challenge is actually heightened by proximity and familiarity. So goes the old maxim, "familiarity breeds contempt."

Yet in the thirteenth chapter of John, Jesus is speaking with his disciples, those with whom he is closest. And it's in this context that he gives this difficult commandment. "Love one another." Perhaps Jesus is anticipating the challenge of carrying forward the Gospel: its difficulties and conflicts for his friends. He knows that among those seated at the table significant disagreements will arise.

Perhaps this is why Jesus also reminds his friends that this love they are to share has only been made possible by Jesus' love for them, not by their own efforts. Here we are reminded that loving one another—especially those with whom we are close—is made possible only by the closeness of God's love given to us in Jesus Christ.

Lord of love, make us conduits of your love, that we may love even those with whom we are close. Amen.
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John 13:31-35 (NRSV)

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."

Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21:1-6 (
Many years ago I was asked by a homeless young man, "How do I get to heaven?" The man was living amidst suffering and uncertainty, and, to him, heaven represented a better possibility. I don't remember my response, but the question stuck. His question suggests something that is often held in many popular expressions of Christianity: that it is our job to get to heaven.

Yet in John's vision, he does not see people 'getting to heaven,' but the New Jerusalem, the dwelling of God, coming to people. In this stunning image, we discover that God's new creation descends to us. Here we see heaven getting to us.

In the descending of the New Jerusalem, there is a promise that I could scarcely articulate when asked that question all those years ago: God has come near to us and will never abandon us to suffering, uncertainty—to the forces of death. God's kingdom has come and is coming to make all things new—not just up there, but here; not just later, but now.

Merciful God, you bring your new creation to us and dwell among us. Help us to trust in your redeeming work through the coondescension of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
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Revelation 21:1-6 (NRSV)

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;

4 "he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."

5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."

6 Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life."

Psalm 148

Psalm 148
Praise the Lord! There is a cadence and percussiveness in the Psalmist's voice that causes us to take notice. This is not a subtle invitation or a quiet request. Rather, this Praise of God is a rhythm into which all of creation is drawn.

Frequently we may think of praise as an event, as one thing among many that we choose to do within our ever-cramped schedule.

It is not so for the Psalmist. Here praise is something that is ceaseless. When we are silent, the sun and moon sing their praises. When our lips are closed, the branches of fruit trees dance to melodies of God's goodness. Here praise is not an activity among others, but a melody that pervades everything. When we praise God, we discover that our voices find their place within the rhythm of all God's creation. Praise the Lord!

O God you have made us to sing your praises! Help praises to be always in our hearts and on our tongues! Amen.
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Psalm 148 (NRSV)

1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!

4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.

6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

12 Young men and women alike, old and young together!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!

Acts 11:1-18

Acts 11:1-18
Recently I went picnicking with my family at Disney. Shirt and I sat on our scooters and opened our lunch cooler. We busted open our tuna kit and chips. I was at peace.

It's hard to imagine that the surreal picnic in the reading from Acts was peaceful at all (especially considering its menu). In this re-telling of Peter's rooftop vision, he is attempting to respond to critics who were ticked that Gentiles were being included in the Christian movement. Many of the traditions these early Christians inherited from Judaism concerned purity and distinctiveness. The idea that God was inviting those who were "unclean" or "profane" to the picnic was earthshaking.

This picnic unsettles us still. Although today we take for granted that you don't have to be Jewish to be Christian, we often fail to see where God has given the Holy Spirit and, instead, get in the risky business of prescribing where, in what conditions, and to whom the Spirit is manifest. Today we're given an alternative pattern to such legalism and boundary drawing: discernment.

Perhaps our picnics will be more peaceful once we learn, like Peter, to see in those different from ourselves the gift of the Spirit and respond in kind: Who am I that I can hinder God?

O God, open our eyes to see your Spirit in those different from ourselves, that we may never hinder you. Amen.
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Acts 11:1-18 (NRSV)

1 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God.

2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him,

3 saying, "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?"

4 Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying,

5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me.

6 "As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air.

7 "I also heard a voice saying to me, 'Get up, Peter; kill and eat.'

8 "But I replied, 'By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.'

9 "But a second time the voice answered from heaven, 'What God has made clean, you must not call profane.'

10 "This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.

11 "At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were.

12 "The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house.

13 "He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, 'Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter;

14 "'he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.'

15 "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning.

16 "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'

17 "If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?"

18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life."

Beautiful Savior

Beautiful Savior

Springtime is my favorite time of the year. After the barrenness of winter with its insufficient light, the lengthening days raise my spirits. All of creation gives witness to the recreating work of God. Along with the returning birds, God does indeed "make our sorrowing spirits sing," so wonderfully phrased in the hymn, "Beautiful Savior."

We sang "Beautiful Savior" at my mother's memorial service in late springtime of 1983. I continue to get choked up whenever I sing this hymn, even thirty years later. Hymns have a way of doing that to us. They are great bearers of emotion, helping us to express the nearly inexpressible.

That is the wonder of resurrection faith: even in the loss of loved ones we can sing praises to the goodness of God. Every spring is another foretaste and sign of God's promise that death is not the last word.

Beautiful Savior and King of Creation, create spring anew in our hearts so that we may live the resurrection life until that time when all creation comes to fulfillment. Amen.
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Beautiful Savior
Beautiful Savior,
King of creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I'd love thee,
truly I'd serve thee,
light of my soul, my joy, my crown.

Fair are the meadows,
fair are the woodlands,
robed in flow'rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer,
he makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
fair is the moonlight,
bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
than all the angels in the sky.

Beautiful Savior,
Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
praise, adoration,
now and forevermore be thine!

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us

The topic of leadership is a popular one these days, not only in the church but also in business, government, education, and social services. There are blogs dedicated to it and booksellers pushing hundreds of offerings. Full disclosure: I am also a devotee of the subject.

There are many images used for leaders, such as cultivator and facilitator. The Apostle Paul even lists leadership as one of the spiritual gifts in Romans 12. Today's hymn offers the picture of Jesus leading as a shepherd.

Sometimes we get stuck on the idea that we are as dumb as sheep and therefore need to be told what to do by the shepherd. However, the key to the hymnist's vision of leadership comes in the words, "you have bought us, we are yours." Great leaders are great because they serve others, and in so doing inspire us to do the same.

Servant Shepherd, lead us into serving others as you have served us. Amen.
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Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us

Savior, like a shepherd lead us;
much we need your tender care.
In your pleasant pastures feed us,
for our use your fold prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
you have bought us; we are yours.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
you have bought us; we are yours.

We are yours; in love befriend us,
be the guardian of our way;
keep your flock, from sin defend us,
seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
hear us children when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
hear us children when we pray.

You have promised to receive us,
poor and sinful though we be;
you have mercy to relieve us,
grace to cleanse, and pow'r to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
early let us turn to you.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
early let us turn to you.

Early let us seek your favor,
early let us do your will;
blessed Lord and only Savior,
with your love our spirits fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
you have loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
you have loved us, love us still.

John 10:22-30

John 10:22-30
Although doubtful, St. Francis of Assisi has been credited with saying, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words." Even so, it is still an important idea. We can give voice to the most marvelous sentiments, but our actions must embody our beliefs.

In John's Gospel, the eternal Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. The Word teaches and preaches the good news of God's love for the world and the new life this brings. Yet, the Word is more than words. Jesus' works, the signs he performs that point to God, testify to truth that he has been set aside by God to bring hope and reconciliation to all of creation. The greatest sign of all, Jesus' willingness to empty himself and go the way of the cross resulting in resurrection life, speaks volumes.

Incarnate Word, speak into our lives so that all we do may testify to your life-giving grace. Amen.
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John 10:22-30 (NRSV)

22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter,

23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.

24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

25 Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me;

26 "but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

27 "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

28 "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

29 "What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand.

30 "The Father and I are one."

John 10:22-30

John 10:22-30
Merlin, our church's building and grounds supervisor, also raises sheep. When lambing season comes around, he tries to be on hand for every birth, knowing that even a small problem could result in the loss of a lamb. Each is precious to him, and not just monetarily. I can tell that by the gentleness in his voice as he describes his work, which often involves all hours of the night. I am convinced that they respond well to him.

Are we able to hear Jesus' voice because we are his sheep, or are we his sheep because we hear Jesus' voice? When my Confirmation students hear a question such as this they know how to answer: "Yes!" We respond to the life-giving call of the Good Shepherd and we grow deeper into that life as he cares for us each day.

Shepherding God, help us to hear your voice in the midst of the clamor of our world, so that we may follow your life-giving way. Amen.
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John 10:22-30 (NRSV)

22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter,

23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.

24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

25 Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me;

26 "but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

27 "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

28 "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

29 "What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand.

30 "The Father and I are one."