6th Sunday of Easter

6th Sunday of Easter (B)

May 10, 2015 (Mother’s Day)

John 15:9-17

“First Comes Love and Then Comes…Love”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today on the 6th Sunday of Easter, which is also Mother’s Day this year, is the lesson read earlier from John 15.

My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

As long as there have been people, there have been bullies and taunting and teasing. The strong have always preyed upon the weak, and our strongest and most effective weapon continues to be our tongues (James 3). Kids can be uncommonly cruel to one another; 1 in 7 students in grades K through 12th is either a bully or has been a victim of bullying. Victims of bullying are 2 to 9 times more prone to commit suicide. With that being said, I don’t condone bullying. But I also think that probably everyone here, at one time or another, has either heard or sang the following taunt: “Boy X and girl Y sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes (insert child name reference) in a baby carriage.” It is phraseology right from the “teasing 101” handbook learned on the playground.

But notice one of the main thrusts of that taunt – “first comes love.” First comes love. In today’s lesson the word “love” or its derivation is used 9 times. Even outside the Church, today is a day about love. It’s Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day mom…in case you read this sermon on our website. Anyway, we learn a lot about love in John 15: As God the Father has loved Jesus, so also Jesus loves us (v. 9). How awesome is that? But there’s more! We can abide in God’s heavenly love as we strive to keep God’s commandments (v. 9-10). We are also given a “new” commandment as such: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (V. 12). As those whom God loves, we are able to love Him and our neighbors. We also recognize that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (V. 13 ESV). That’s a lot to take in! But wait! It all starts with God’s love…even bullies know that: “First comes love”…“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” But what do we mean by “love?”

In the Greek New Testament, there are 3 words for the concept of love. The first one is “hedone.” It is a word for love from which we get the English word “hedonism.” This is the physical aspect of love – the unhealthy lust part. This is NOT the kind of love that we show for God, mom, or neighbor. In the NT it is often the word used to describe the unholy carnality that works against God and entices people instead towards evil.

Hedone” is Satan’s favorite. He just loves to entice people with what they think they want, then show them a way to temporarily get it. Case in point…do you know how many people visit Las Vegas every year? Last year it was more than 41 million. Why? There is nothing out there but sand! Well, sand and topless bars, strip clubs, adult book stores, and prostitutes. People flock to Las Vegas by the millions because this is their way of getting, buying, and showing love. But that’s not what we’re talking about today.

A second word for “love” in the New Testament is “Philos.” “Philos” is a love shown between friends, hence the name “Philadelphia” or the “city of brotherly love.” I didn’t find much “philos” in Philadelphia, but that’s beside the point. “Philos” is a camaraderie love for spouses, children, parents, employers, fellow church members, friends, and healthy activities. If you “just love to fish or golf or shop,” that’s “philos.” This is an enjoyable type of connection, but it isn’t necessarily long lasting. It is a bond that can be broken by circumstances: divorce, disagreements, infidelity, anger, pride, and so on. But that’s not what we’re talking about today.

What we are talking about today – “First comes love” – and the kind of love that Jesus uses in every instance in John 15, is the 3rd Greek word for love “agape.” This is the ultimate level of love. “Agape” is a self-sacrificing love; a love that puts a higher priority on the welfare of someone else other than yourself and your desires. “Agape” love is what Jesus not only exhibits but what He calls for: “agape” love God and “agape” love for your neighbor as yourself. Jesus’ “agape” love for you is what called Him to keep and remain in the Father’s commandments for you. The perfect “agape” love of the Father is demonstrated in and carried out by Jesus at both the cross where death dies and the tomb where the grave is overwhelmed by God’s “agape” for you.

As a result, we as God’s people comprehend, appreciate, understand, and confess that sinners such as us need WAY more “agape” love in life and WAY less “hedone.”  We rejoice in God’s greater “agape” love for us such that we are encouraged and strengthened to show forth grace and mercy and peace and love for one another. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). I asked my confirmands if they are ready to do this, because the confirmed faith is a self-sacrificing, loving, “agape” faith. Are you also ready to live and love – “agape” – like that?

Today is Mother’s Day, a day we show love for mom through cards and phone calls and flowers and meals and gifts and pampering in general. There is a striking similarity in God’s love for us and a mom’s love; it is an “agape” love and affection and approval of someone who accepts us just the way we are.

And isn’t that the main problem with bullies in the first place? They refuse to love and approve of us just the way we are? If nothing else, remember not so much the taunt, but its core message: “first comes love.” Indeed, first comes love – God’s “agape” love that He showed for us in that Jesus laid down His life then rose again to join us to Him in everlasting faith and hope. Then comes, well, more love – “agape” love for God and for neighbor. Remember, it was Jesus who said “These things I command you, so that you will love – agape – one another” (John 15:17).

Happy Mother’s Day.

Amen.