The old Huey Lewis song goes like this:
“The Power of Love is a curious thing. Make-a-one man weep, and another man sing…It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes, but it might just save your life.”
It might just save your life!
I write a lot about love in this blog. I do that because love truly is the most powerful force in the cosmos. People will do things for love that they wouldn’t do for money or fame or any of the currencies the world has come to value. It doesn’t mean that love, at least in human terms, is perfect. We know it is not. Love is cruel sometimes. When love goes unreturned, disappointment ensues. There are times when people take advantage of the love shown to them, and relationships are broken. People have even killed for love.
And Jesus died for love!
Over the centuries, religion has advanced several theological reasons why Jesus had to die. These theories that attempt to explain the divine role in the crucifixion leave many unsatisfied with the answer to the question. Perhaps a more humanistic explanation is appropriate: Jesus died because he loved the people so much, he was not willing to compromise or sell out the power of love to save even his own life. For Jesus, love was even more powerful than his own life.
It might just cost your life! (But save it at the same time)
Our world is full of reasons not to love – to hold back, to value money, power, fame or that last empty seat on the subway, more than love. All that we value more than love itself is a sign of our sinfulness, a sign that we fall short of the God who is love itself, and the Jesus who is love personified.
And so, St. Peter writes us that it is the power of love that covers a multitude of sins – a reminder that despite all the no-so-loving things that people do to each other, one single act of love can truly change the world.
And it might just save your life!
The last words or actions of a person who is going to die often get a heightened level of attention. Many have experienced this tender moment, gathered with family around someone in the last days of life. Often, it is the way in which someone dies which becomes as memorable as how they lived. What people say and do in their dying moments can have lasting value to those being left behind.
That is why it is so important to remember that Jesus final commandment to “love one another” was given to his disciples on the last night of his life. Jesus knew, even if the disciples didn’t, that he was going to be turned over to the authorities, tried and put on the cross. In his last opportunity to gather with his friends, to eat with them, to share stories with them, to teach them, he knew that it would be a memorable time for Jesus to share final acts and words of love and encouragement
On that night, Jesus loved his friends and invited them to eat with him, and gave to them a way to remember him and be present with him. We celebrate Holy Communion, 2000 years later, because Jesus loved us.
On that night, Jesus washed the feet of his followers, modeling the self-emptying nature of the love that Jesus had for them, and the one that he asked them to have for others. This act of service to others was done because Jesus loved us.
On that night, Jesus gave us this one commandment, this capstone of all the things he had taught his disciples – “Love One Another”. That commandment is the underlying foundation of all the others. Nothing matters unless it is done in love. Jesus gave us this commandment because he first loved us.
On that night Jesus loved his disciples even though he knew that most would abandon him in the time of his greatest need. Because Jesus loved us, we are all free to love each other without the expectation of anything in return. As forgiven children of God, all we need do is the next loving thing.
And that is how the world will know us.
Devotions for the Week of April 24
On the beach as Jesus made one last appearance to his disciples, he asks Peter three times “Do you love me?” Three times Peter responds, “Lord, you know I love you”. And after each of Peter’s confessions, Jesus tells Peter in order to: “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”
What Jesus is telling Peter, and all his followers then and now is that confessing our love for Jesus is the first and most important act of faith, but it is not the final act. Followers of Jesus complete their devotion by being called to take care of the needs of others whom Jesus loves.
This is why we read in the book of James:
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? (James 2: 15-16)
When we receive Holy Communion we are invited to dine in Christ’s presence and we come to the altar because of our love for Jesus. It is there that Jesus has prepared a table for us. It is there where our cup is filled to over flowing. It is there where we understand most clearly the promises of the Good Shepherd that this invitation to commune in Christ’s presence will be there all our lives.
It is also from there that we are sent out into the world, hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd: Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep”. “Feed my sheep.” Christ loves us and feeds us so we can love and feed others, and invite them to the table Christ has prepared for us, invite them to know what it is like to have a cup overflowing with joy and love, invite them to hear the promises God has made through Christ.
How will you show your love this week for the Good Shepherd?
About 18 months ago, my wife and I adopted a dog who needed a new family to love. Tucker is a 7-year old Collie/Lab mix whose owner had died suddenly, leaving him without a family. Tucker was also born with a condition that rendered him blind from birth. He is a wonderful pet and shows us constant love and affection. He cannot see me, but when he hears my voice, his head sticks up in the air, his tail wags, and he “looks” for me. He knows my voice and it seems to be a source of comfort and joy for him. Tucker knows that he can follow my voice and be greeted and loved once he finds me.
The 23rd Psalm might be the most well-known and loved passage in all of Holy Scripture. It has been a source of joy and comfort for me during times of great anxiety. While it doesn’t mention the voice of the Shepherd, this passage “speaks” to me with the voice of Jesus as the words and rich imagery it describes carries me through whatever worries or cares I might be living with at the time. I hear Jesus talking to me “beside the still waters” and in the “lying in the green pastures”. I know that voice, and it is the voice of “goodness and mercy that follows me all the days of my life”. I hear the voice of Jesus and I know where and to whom I belong. The Good Shepherd promises that no matter what happens here on Earth, I will never be lost “to the House of Lord forever”.
While this Psalm is a source of great comfort in times of worry, it is also a great source of encouragement to us to follow the voice of Jesus wherever it might lead us, even into “the valley of the shadow of death”. Following Jesus’ voice often leads us through places we would not go on our own. But the voice of the Good Shepherd echoes to us a promise that no matter what happens, we know that Jesus laid down his life for his sheep. We may travel blindly following this voice, but in the end, just like my beloved Tucker, we will greeted and loved and welcomed home.
Devotions for Week of April 17, 2016
Welcome to The Soul Cafe, a place for gathering, for learning and for conversation.
We invite you to join us as we study and discuss how God reveals himself to us in the Bible and in our lives.
Please read our blog, share our devotions and join the conversation.
About this website
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.