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Friday, May 20, 2016

We Are Three. You Are Three. Have Mercy on Us!

Anthony de Mello in The Song of the Bird tells of a bishop whose ship anchored at a remote island.  Since he only had one day there, the bishop was determined to use the time profitably.
He strolled along the seashore and came across three fishermen, mending their nets.  In broken English, they explained to him that missionaries converted their village to Christianity. “We Christians!” they proudly proclaimed. The bishop was impressed. In talking some more, he discovered that they had never heard of the Lord’s Prayer. The bishop was shocked. “What, then, do you SAY when you pray?”
“We lift eyes to heaven and say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’”
The bishop was appalled. This would never do. In fact, it sounded almost heretical. So, the bishop spent the whole day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. Even though the fishermen were slow learners, they were finally able to struggle through it before the bishop sailed away the next day.
Months later, the bishop’s ship happened to pass by that same island. The bishop paced the deck, recalling with pleasure the three men who were now able to pray, thanks to his patient efforts. While he was lost in his thoughts, he happened to look up, and notice a spot of light to the east. The light kept approaching the ship and, as the bishop gazed in wonder, he saw three figures walking on the water. The captain, too, was amazed and he stopped the boat so everyone could see. When they got within speaking distance, the bishop recognized the three fishermen.
They exclaimed, “Bishop! We see your boat go by the island, so we come to see you.”  Awestruck, the bishop asked, “What do you want?” “Bishop, we are very sorry. We forget lovely prayer.  We say, ‘Our Father, in heaven, holy be your name….’ Then we forget.  Please tell us prayer again.”
With a quiet voice, the bishop answered, “Go back to your homes, my friends. And each time you pray, say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.”
Trinity Sunday – most preachers like to skip today because people expect them to explain the Trinity in layman’s terms. So, in addition to the story of our three amigos, let me outline it for you in three P’s. From John, Persons; from Acts, Pentecost; and from Proverbs, proverbs.
First, from John. We often use symbols to explain the Trinity – from Patrick’s clover to geometric designs. We find symbols of the Trinity in our churches – equilateral triangles and overlapping circles. Mathematicians and engineers may prefer triangles and circles, but they are static. If you want to understand the dynamics of the Trinity, you really have to observe and live the family experience.
Families are dynamic. Think of any family – the First Family or the Royal Family, your in-laws or your neighbors. Based on your observations of the outer dynamics of any family, you determine the breadwinner and the spender, the problem solver and the troublemaker. You surmise their mission in life and predict where the children will be in 20 years. You rely on them for assistance or aggravation. We base our assumptions solely on what we know as outsiders.
Hollywood tries to give us an experience of the inner dynamics of family life – be it the Robertson Family, aka, Duck Dynasty or Dog the Bounty Hunter. Nevertheless, reality TV cannot provide the experience of living in that family. The only way you experience a family’s inner dynamics is by living in it.
So it is for Jesus – as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He knows the Father. The Father knows him. Together, they dwell with the Spirit. John tells us that Jesus revealed himself to believers. Over the past few weeks, we heard Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit. In today’s passage, he disputes unbelievers who claim him a Samaritan or possessed, and states, “Before Abraham was born, I Am.”[1] Jesus claims that the Father reveals Himself through the Son, but even an infusion from the Holy Spirit could not have enlightened these unbelievers.
As believers, we accept the truth from Scripture that there are three Persons of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit. We observe their outer dynamics – creation, redemption and sanctification – all performed with loving-kindness. We surmise that the inner dynamics of the three Divine Persons is stronger than any F-5 tornado – strong enough to overcome Satan, sin and death. Moreover, we can rely on their love.
From Persons to Pentecost, my 2nd point. Today’s passage picks up where we left last week – Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Pentecost was an agricultural feast where Jews celebrated not only the harvest but also the giving of the Torah. It was known as the Shav – u’ – oth or the Feast of Weeks. This festival, celebrated 7 weeks or 50 days after Passover, brought farmers from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Asia, Egypt, Libya and Rome to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot. They came to thank God for the harvest and for the Law. To them Peter makes a fundamental presentation of the Gospel. … CFW Walther would have been proud of how Peter incorporated both Law and Gospel into his sermon. … And while Jesus could not convince his hearers, by preaching Christ crucified Peter stirred the hearts of some 3,000 that day. Scripture tells us that he converted and baptized 3,000 people. Through baptism, Peter brought them into the inner family. They observed the community of believers from the outside, and then experienced it from the inside. People who hear the Gospel are baptized as members of the Church, a dynamic, believing community of people who reflect the loving relationships of the Trinity in their inner and outer activities.
Believers are members of a believing community, a Pentecost community. … Are we members of a Pentecost community? Are we a Pentecost people? … We are. … Turn to Roman numeral x in your Lutheran Service Book and read the lower right hand corner: “The Time of the Church – The Season of Pentecost.” From now until Advent, our corporate worship reminds us that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. Hence, we celebrate the Sundays of Pentecost.
Like the first converts, we too were baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We received forgiveness of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because we are attuned to the Holy Spirit active in our lives as a faith community and individual believers, we are a Pentecost people.
Are we a Trinitarian community? Well, if you turn to Roman numeral xxi, you will find that these Sundays are also Trinity Sundays. They remind us to focus on the dynamic power of all three Divine Persons of the Trinity active in our lives. Therefore, according to our worship, we are members of a Pentecostal and Trinitarian community.
However, there is another way to know if we reflect the loving relationships of the Holy Trinity in our inner and outer activities – by asking outsiders what they observe. This week, ask some outsiders how they see us. Do they see us as Spirit-filled people? Do they see us as a dynamic community? Would they say that we reflect the loving relationships of the Persons of the Holy Trinity? Does our living proclamation of the Gospel stir their hearts to the degree that they are kicking in the doors to get in? I want you to think about that this week, and really ask someone. Ask anyone. If we are a Pentecost people, a Trinitarian community, it should be easily observable.
That brings me to my third point – Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of sayings and instructions composed between the 11th and 6th centuries. Its primary purpose was to teach wisdom not only to young men, but also to the advanced. (I consider myself advanced.) Wisdom in the ancient Near East was not theoretical knowledge but practical expertise. Jewelers who cut precious stones were wise; kings who made their dominion peaceful and prosperous were wise. One could be wise in daily life by knowing how to live successfully (having a prosperous household and living a long and healthy life) and without trouble in God’s universe. Ultimately wisdom or “sound guidance” forms character.
Proverbs helped form our New Testament. … The New Testament saw Jesus as wisdom personified (today’s reading from chapter 8). The Letter of James is an instruction that resembles Proverbs. It also influenced the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which derive their father-son language from the parental language of the book. The Gospel of John regards Jesus as incarnate wisdom descended from on high to offer human beings life and truth and make disciples of them.
Wise people follow God’s commands revealed through God’s Word. Allow me to complete the verses of chapter 8.
Now, children, listen to me; happy are they who keep my ways. Listen to instruction and grow wise, do not reject it! Happy the one who listens to me, attending daily at my gates, keeping watch at my doorposts; For whoever finds me finds life, and wins favor from the LORD; But those who pass me by do violence to themselves; all who hate me love death.[2]
Wise people follow God’s commands revealed through God’s Word. That is basic Lutheranism. “Since the Holy Spirit speaks only through the Scripture, the intent of the Holy Spirit is not to be separated from the words of Scripture.”[3]
Wise people who follow God’s commands revealed through God’s Word do not hesitate when tragedy strikes. When I lived in Oklahoma, people across the nation responded generously with donations for Moore after a tornado destroyed blocks of the city. People are generous when tragedy strikes friends, neighbors and even strangers. Believers and unbelievers alike respond to tragedies.
When one’s cry for help is as loud as the winds of an F-5 tornado, our human nature reacts. In one of his Daily Devotions, Pastor Ken Klaus addressed the response of Charles Ramsey, the Cleveland man who heard the shouts of Amanda Berry, broke down the door and allowed her to call 911. Pastor Klaus says, “I’d like to think you and I would have done the same thing. I’d like to think that, but I’m not sure. You see it’s not always easy to do the right thing. It’s much more comfortable to come up with excuses on how it’s not my business and how somebody else ought to get involved, even in those situations when there is little or no danger. You doubt me? Then let me ask: What is the percentage of eligible voters who attend annual or quarterly congregational meetings? How many times do you read about your church’s need for officers or VBS teachers? How many really good voices come forward to sing in the choir?”
We react when the cry is deafening, but are we attuned to every cry? Imagine how difficult it must have been for Ramsey to free those women from bondage, especially when he knew and picnicked with their captor, Ariel Castro.
If we want to claim our congregation, district or synod reflects the dynamic loving relationships of the Trinity, should we make it our business to get involved and make some feel uncomfortable, or should we settle for the status quo? We should respond not only to the loud cries for help following a tornado, but also the whimpers of unborn children.
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, an LCMS member and media critic, spotlighted mainstream reporters’ lack of coverage of the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.[4] Because her Lutheran awareness of vocation helps her understand her role in the world as a media critic, she was able to bring this trial to light in spite the pushback she experienced from the mainstream media. Quote: “Through my various vocations, I aim to serve God by serving my neighbor. When I’m writing a news story, I don’t think my job is to convert anyone but, rather, to just share the basic information that helps the reader. When I’m doing media criticism, I push journalists not to share my political or religious beliefs but, rather, to just practice their journalism fairly. When I’m writing opinion pieces, then I get to argue for a given cause.”[5]
Hemingway is a courageous, thoughtful, spiritual, wise woman who heeds and practices God’s revealed teaching, and she provides an example for all of us. Whether we practice medicine or law, manage a restaurant or a sales force, crunch numbers or raise children, Mollie Hemingway gives us an example of how a baptized believer understands her vocation and serves God by serving her neighbors, whether they are victims of a deadly tornado or a cruel abortionist. … Like Charles Ramsey and Mollie Hemingway, we too must attune our ears and respond to not only the loud cries for help, but also the cries and whimpers of little ones.
To do so means we set aside social media and the remote and practice the art of listening to God’s Word and His loving creatures. When we listen and respond lovingly we are on our way to loving like the Trinity loves. To be a dynamic community like the Trinity, we will love as the Trinity loves. And for those times, we do not, may we pray: We are three, you are three. Have mercy on us. And may the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] John 8:58.
[2] Proverbs 8:32-36.
[3] The Abiding Word, Vol. 2, p. 39.
[4] Molly Ziegler Hemingway, “Time to ask Obama about Gosnell, “ USA Today, May 13, 2013.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Four Eyes

 Four-Eyes! Kids called me that as soon as I started wearing glasses. Kids have called their classmates four-eyes for over 100 years. Four-eyes is simply slang for a person who wears glasses. Four I’s is also the title of my sermon. Four I’s as in the letter between H and J, and not the organ for vision. Four I’s: intoxication, indwelling, involvement and indifference. Intoxication and indwelling from our readings, primarily Acts; and involvement and indifference from our place in the world today.
First, intoxication. We commonly understand intoxication as drunk. Picture Mayberry’s Otis or the lovable Foster Brooks. Drunks. Only for 400 years have we understood intoxication as drunk on rum, rye or red wine. Before that, intoxication meant poisoning. The root word – toxic – pertains to Greek warriors who dipped their arrows in poison before combat and shot them at their enemies.
Intoxicated is what the apostles’ opponents claimed they were. And while I enjoy the way the New Living Translation puts it – “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” – the one that reads – “They had too much new wine” – is ironic. Ironic because in the Old Testament, new wine or sweet wine symbolized the joy and abundant blessings that God would give his people in the messianic age.[2] In Joel, we read, “On that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk.”[3]
In Amos, we read, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”[4]
Jesus hinted that he would give the new wine of divine life when he turned water into wine at Cana. In another place he said, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins – and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”[5]And so, at Pentecost, new wine is the Holy Spirit, the gift of love that is poured forth into our hearts.
Though the crowd heard diverse languages from a group of Galileans, their reactions differed widely, from bewilderment to scoffing accusations that the believers were drunk; however, miraculous signs invite faith but do require an explanation of what they signify.[6] In other words, the apostles were intoxicated, but not poisoned. Intoxicated with the Holy Spirit, but not wine.
From intoxication to indwelling. Indwelling describes a medical condition, such as a catheter, but more commonly describes an inner guiding force. Something takes up residence within you and becomes part of you, such as a catheter or a spirit.
Something took up residence in the apostles and became part of them. Acts described this force as the Holy Spirit that descended from heaven like a terrifying wind, filled the house and then rested on each believer.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost reminds us how indispensable the Spirit is for our faith and salvation. Pentecost reminds us that we are not saved by doctrinal orthodoxy or our determination to follow scrupulously rules and commandments. We are saved by the acts of God.
The indwelling Holy Spirit bestows on us the virtues of faith, hope and love from which all other Christian virtues and actions follow. As it did in the first believers, the Spirit produces in us a particular kind of fruit. St. Paul listed the fruit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.[7] In short, the Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer produces the character of Jesus.
On Pentecost, the Trinity imparted a gracious gift that produced in each believer the character of Jesus. Frightened men and women who hid from authorities no longer feared dungeon and death. They faced it because the character of Jesus now dwelt within them. The character of Jesus now dwelt within them.
From indwelling to involvement. Acts teaches us that on Pentecost, the believers did not remain in the place where the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Rather, as soon as they received the Holy Spirit, they began to witness.
Following Jesus’ last command – You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth[8] – their witnessing flowed naturally.
Their witnessing began in Jerusalem, and quickly reached Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya – the cities and regions mentioned in verses 9 and 10. The Gospel spread like wildfire because Christians – filled with the Holy Spirit – cut people to the heart with words like repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; and save yourselves from this crooked generation.[9]
Christians spoke like that because they were intoxicated with the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit brought about their ability to speak other languages, but it was clear that the church was not building a language institute but a body of believers sent to every nation on earth.[10] Christians involved in the world resulted in 3,000 baptisms on Pentecost.
Folks, I have preached and pastored since 1987. I participated in gatherings of a million Christians, and last year traveled to Ecuador where I witnessed the phenomenal growth of Evangelical Church, but I never heard of a baptism of 3,000 people. This occurred because Christians intoxicated with the Holy Spirit were involved in the world.
Christians intoxicated with the Holy Spirit involved in the world. … Folks, are you intoxicated with the Holy Spirit? Does the Holy Spirit dwell within you to the degree that you speak and act like you drank too much? Are you involved in the world?
Apart from voting, most Christians avoid involvement in the world. We excuse ourselves because we dislike politics and despise dirty tricks. Yet, we see that Jesus involved himself in the lives of thousands of people by teaching God’s Word, forgiving their sins, healing their infirmities and quenching their hunger. In short, Jesus challenged the establishment.
Jon Kuhrt, a Christian involved with London’s homeless recently wrote, “We have no choice about being political because if we choose not to engage then it is a vote for the status quo … Christians [must] be involved because we believe in a God who cares passionately about his world and his creation, and consequently how it is run. The Bible is hugely political – in that it is about how God wants people to behave and act towards him, and towards each other. This involves economics and law because these are tools that need to be used to build justice.
As believers in God we have much to bring to politics – a deeper commitment to justice and compassion which throughout history has made a difference in the political sphere through people like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu and many others.”
Kuhrt goes on to say, “Be involved in your local community – what issues do local people care about? How can you help make a noise about key issues local to you?  How does your church or youth group connect with issues of justice either locally or globally?  How can you build knowledge of what is going on and get passionate with others about making a stand?
Join the Christian group of the party that you believe in and be an advocate for Jesus’ politics within it.  Be brave and courageous – don’t just follow the crowd, but be willing to ask the difficult questions.”[11] Be involved, but be indifferent.
Hence, my last point, indifference. My last point does not contradict my previous point. By indifference I do not mean apathy or a “who cares” or “whatever” attitude. On the contrary, holy indifference means total openness to God will in one’s life. In other words, whatever God wills for me, I will strive with all my heart, mind and soul to conform to His will. I will not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short one.
How did Jesus expect His disciples to attain holy indifference? How did the first Christians achieve acceptance of God’s will? How did sentenced Christians bring glory to Christ? Through a constant, dynamic prayer life which led them to total confidence in God and a willingness to give themselves wholly to the Trinity.
They were indifferent because they knew God directed them. Their love for Father, Son and Spirit was so deep that all obstacles between God and themselves were removed to the point that they knew how to use things properly, for example, talent, money, property or politics to glorify God. They were able to do so because they recognized that all things came from God, and that all people were from God. Hence, the first Christians not only withstood their enemies’ insults about intoxication, but also welcomed them if they brought glory to Christ and His Gospel.
Friends, four-eyes is not the worst insult people will hurl at you. Intoxication is not the worst accusation people will make. A Christian intoxicated with the indwelling Holy Spirit involved in the world who employs holy indifference will make all the difference needed to bring about God’s Kingdom because of what Father, Son and Spirit have done. Allow this God to work in you, and know that when He does, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Psalm 122.
[2] William S. Kurz, Acts of the Apostles. (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing, 2013), 46.
[3] Joel 3:18.
[4] Amos 9:13-14.
[5] Mark 2:22.
[6] Kurz, 46.
[7] Galatians 5:22-23.
[8] Acts 1:8.
[9] Acts 2:37-40.
[10] John W. Martens, “Continuing Education,” America. May 16, 2016.
[11] Krish Kandiah, “Why Christians should be involved in politics,”

Monday, April 18, 2016

Love Songs

God’s grace, peace and mercy be with you. … My focus is the Gospel of John where we read, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”[1]
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, the psalmist wrote, “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”[2] Now that our feet are within your gates, we rejoice to hear your Word. As we listen, may your Spirit enlighten our minds and move our hearts to love deeply as Jesus loved. This we pray to you, Most Holy Trinity. Amen.
Love songs. We have favorite love songs. If you were young in the 50’s, perhaps you favor Elvis’ Love Me Tender or Sam Cooke’s You Send Me. If you grew up in the 60’s, you remember Herb Alpert’s This Guy’s in Love with You, Sonny & Cher’s I Got You Babe and The Beatles’ And I Love Her.
My favorite is Barry White’s You’re My First, My Last, My Everything. Others prefer Celine Dion’s My Heart will Go On or Bette Midler’s The Rose.[3]
What do silly love songs have to do with my sermon? Love songs touch our culture, our Gospel and our lives.
First, our culture. Songs unify people, move us to action, and help us express emotions. Certain songs become anthems for particular generations, and during a national crisis, certain songs become especially appropriate. Songs express widely shared values that define a group’s identity and solidarity. Lyrics express judgments and conflicts about lifestyles, values and appearances.
Historians use lyrics to understand the culture and consciousness of the people who sang and listened to them. Lyrics give important clues about what people thought and felt, their daily struggles, and their dreams about the future.
This led me to ask, “What did the first Christians sing?” Of course, the earliest Christians chanted Hebrew Scriptures: Psalms and ancient canticles like Miriam’s Song.[4] Paul and Luke included songs in their writings. Regularly, we sing Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis.
Evidence of songs outside of Scripture is scant. The ancient Greeks sang and still sing Phos Hilaron or Hail Gladdening Light. Alongside of it, early Christians sang Oxyrhynchus, a hymn that invoked silence for the praise of the Holy Trinity.
While a sermon is not an exhaustive lesson on the history or social importance of love songs and hymns devoted to human and divine persons, viewing our Gospel on this canvas enriches our understanding and appreciation of Jesus’ words. If lyrics give clues about what people thought and felt, their daily struggles, and their dreams about the future, then we can understand Jesus’ words to his friends as God’s love song for humanity.
Our Hymn of the Day, Charles Wesley’s most famous Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, begs the Son to enter our hearts, the Spirit to set our hearts free that we might ceaselessly praise the Father and take our place in heaven lost in wonder, love and praise. In short, the song is Wesley’s prayer that we fulfill Christ’s command to love.
Wesley’s love song expresses our daily struggles and dreams. We long to love one another as Jesus loved, but daily we struggle. Because we struggle, we rely upon the Holy Spirit. Alone, we fail to love. Through the Spirit, we love. When the Spirit’s love fills my heart, I can love as Christ loved. Only then, can my life and love affect our culture. And so, folks, we move from culture to Gospel.
Unlike the Synoptics, where Jesus reiterated commands from Deuteronomy and Leviticus to love God and neighbor,[5] John’s Jesus did not command his disciples to love God. Rather, he requested they love him and his commandments; and that if they did, the Father would love them.[6]
You see, the Father sent Jesus into the world to make the Father known. Therefore, John is a story not about the Son, but primarily the Son’s story about his Father.
What did Jesus make known about his Father? That he is love. How did Jesus make known that the Father is love? Through his words and deeds, and climactically, through his Paschal Mystery, that is, his suffering and death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to the Father.
John recorded three years of Jesus’ words and deeds through twelve chapters. He then slowed the pace to record the last hours of Jesus’ life in chapters 13 through 17. In the final hours of Jesus’ life, his major focus was making known the love of God. Here, Jesus issued his love command. His disciples were no longer servants but friends, and he chose them that they might love one another as he has loved them.[7]
To speak of God’s love is to speak of God’s glory. God’s glory is his visible, tangible presence to Israel and the world, his saving intervention in the exodus.[8]
Pharisees and scribes rejected Jesus because they loved the glory that came from people more than the glory that came from God.[9] They loved relationships with and recognition from people more than God’s glory, that is, God’s saving intervention in Jesus, the new exodus.
God’s glory shined forth from the cross. The crucified Jesus was the exalted Jesus, but Jesus’ glorification did not take place on the cross. On the cross, we see only part of the process of Jesus’ glorification.
From the cross, Jesus glorified the Father, and the Father glorified him through the entire paschal event – death, resurrection and ascension – before he achieved the glory that was his before the world was made.[10] From the cross, Jesus created a new family, a new community of love. At the cross, Father and Son poured the Spirit upon this new community.
In his final appearance to his disciples, Jesus gave them a mission to continue his presence in the world during his absence.[11] Despite their ignorance, failure, betrayal and denial, Jesus commanded his disciples to imitate him, and love one another as he loved them, so that the world might recognize them as his disciples.[12]
After he achieved all that was necessary through the paschal event, the Father glorified Jesus as he did before the world began; and his disciples, now showered with the Holy Spirit, made God known to the world.
Though absent from this new community, Jesus gifted it not only with the Spirit, but also with Baptism and Eucharist. Through these sacraments and God’s Word, the disciples continued their association with Jesus. Just as Jesus’ association with the Father determined his life, the disciples’ association with Jesus through Word, Sacrament and Church determined theirs.
The world recognized the disciples when they made known to the world that the Father sent Jesus to give love and life to the world.[13] The disciples were responsible for continuing that revealing mission. Moreover, as time passed, this community of love made new disciples through Word and Sacrament.
Today, as readers of John’s Gospel, we are missionaries. We love one another as Jesus loved as a sign to the world, not just to our community. Our mutual love generates knowledge of Jesus’ love for us. As he gave himself unconditionally for us, we give ourselves unconditionally to others, and in this way make Jesus known.[14]
The Gospel’s love song gives important clues about the first Christians’ daily struggles and dreams about the future. What does their love song have to do with our lives?
As Christians today, what are our daily struggles? What are our dreams about the future? What does Jesus’ love song about His Father have to do with our lives? Hence, my final point.
If you search the web with my questions, your screen populates with sites directing you to the rapture, internet evangelism, abortion, death, evolution and more.
Therefore, I turned away from the internet and to family and friends. First, my brother and sister-in-law.
Their daily struggles? Sometimes human frustrations overshadow my vision of God and his love. For instance, actions by loved ones are different from what I expect. Therefore, irritation, frustration and shadows cloud my thoughts, my actions and reactions at the time. After time, those disappear and the vision of God and his love returns.
Their dreams about the future? To be a better Christian. To avoid the petty, to love life and all it has. To follow God's word closer. To, one day, be in heaven with God, my brother and those who preceded me. To see a better relationship with those close to us and to heal old wounds.
What does Jesus’ love song about His Father have to do with their life? It tells us that our love for one another is what brings us closer to God and to see his love in one another. It also reminded us of the wedding at Cana where the old wine was gone and the new wine brought much delight to the wedding feast. It was a complete surprise to the groom, bride & guests. So it is to those who discover God's love. It also reminded us of the comparison of new wine in old wine skins. How the old gives way to the new commandments - in particular loving one another.
Answering these three questions, my friend Peg from Pennsylvania wrote, seeking the Lord is a daily struggle. It is hard to hear the whispers above the noise. Of course, my dream is eternal life! In the meantime, I try to live a life of justice, mercy, and humility. It is a big challenge to love others. My life is about striving for that ideal. I am not there yet!
My cousin, Wanda in San Diego said this about her daily struggles.
Possibly trying to please others, sometimes not in my best interests, i.e., trying to avoid conflict. Some interactions may leave [me] ruminating of how better it could have been handled.
Her dreams about the future? To live a long and happy life with [my husband] Tim. And for my children, to have a successful life, a loving spouse and a long happy life.
Jesus’ love song about His Father has this to do with her life. I have always tried to follow this advice, and tried to teach my children as well. “Treat others how you would like others to treat you, no matter how they may be.” A bit of love and kindness goes a long way.
Finally, my friend, Wendell of Oklahoma listed his daily struggles. Pride, anger, gluttony, avarice, lust, envy, sloth, unforgiveness, uncaring, meaness, nastiness, swearing, unkindness, drunkenness, hypocrisy, smugness, judgementalism, self-righteousness, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, adultery, prejudice - and many more. These are the sins I confess in my daily prayers, and I know the list is not complete.
Wendell’s dreams about the future are these. Heaven, and finally being the perfect man [God] wanted me to be. Worshipping and praising Him for eternity. Spending time with all the brothers and sisters in Heaven.
Regarding Jesus’ love song about His Father, Wendell wrote this. The obedience and love that Jesus demonstrated toward his Father is the best example of perfect obedience to the Father, and perfect love towards my brothers and sisters. I want to emulate these things. Jesus tells us that if we do these things the lost will gravitate towards Him, and we will be obeying the Heavenly Father and helping to bring souls to Him. The ultimate two birds with one stone.
Friends, in closing, ponder these questions. What are your daily struggles? What are your dreams about the future? What does Jesus’ love song about His Father have to do with your life?
Ponder them this evening, this summer and daily for the rest of your lives. Ponder and pray, and I pray that when you do the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keeps your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] 13:34-35
[2] Psalm 122
[4] Exodus 15
[5] See Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:16ff; Mark 10:17ff; Luke 10:25ff.
[6] Francis J. Moloney, SDB, Love in the Gospel of John: An Exegetical, Theological, and Literary Study. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic (2013), 2.
[7] Moloney, 103
[8] Moloney, 53
[9] John 12:43
[10] Moloney, 96.
[11] Moloney, 169.
[12] Moloney, 117.
[13] Moloney, 176.
[14] 206f