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The Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 13, 2012
The Gospel: John 15:9-17
Sermon: "You Are Chosen!"
The Reverend Dr. Richard (Rick) Miles
Watch the complete video of this service on our YouTube Channel
Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."
You Are Chosen!
Today is Mother’s Day. Therefore, it should come as no surprise then that the message this morning is about love. Afterall, if there is one thing we nearly all associate with moms, it is love. On the other hand, we all know, probably especially moms, that love isn’t always easy. Love takes work! It just doesn’t come all that naturally. Sometime back there was a cartoon in the Cathy strip. Cathy’s father has met her at the airport. He asks about Cathy’s then boyfriend, Irving, “Are you sure Irving’s picking you up, Cathy?” Cathy responds, “Who knows? Once I waited down here for half an hour while he was waiting on the upper level. Once he went in to meet me at the gate and it took us half an hour to find each other. Once he waited for 45 minutes at the wrong airline. Once I got the dates mixed up and he spent two hours paging me while I was in a different city. We never run out of ways to miss each other.” How true that is in all of life. We never run out of ways to miss each other.
That’s why we need to be reminded that love is not something that just comes naturally. Love is something that we work at, nurture, sustain with prayer and patience. Love, real love, is something that we do, not just feel. Henry Drummond saw that over 100 years ago. He wrote a little book entitled, The Greatest Thing in the World. It became a best-seller and a classic in most people’s libraries of time. In it he makes this declaration:
“What makes a good cricket player: Practice. What makes a good artist, a good sculptor, a good musician? Practice. What makes a good man or woman? Practice. Nothing else…Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, vigorous expression of the whole Christian character; the Christlike nature in its fullest development. (It is) only to be built up by ceaseless practice.”
In our Gospel lesson from the 15th chapter of the Gospel according to John this morning, Jesus tells us that we have been chosen; chosen and appointed by him to love each other. Out of all the world, Jesus says, you and I have been chosen to love. Thus we have this commandment from Jesus that we are to love one another. But how? How can we be more loving with our lives in our marriages, partnerships, with our children, in our church, with our friends, in all our reaching out to others?
Let’s start where love begins, with Acknowledgement. Acknowledging the existence and the worth of another person by truly giving them our full attention is a starting point in loving. It is an act of giving ourselves to someone else. A young man asked his father, “Dad, do you know that in some parts of Africa a man doesn’t know his wife until he marries her?” His dad responded, “Why single our Africa?” Why is it that spouses and partners do not know each other? Why is it that parents do not know their children? Perhaps it is because we are not willing to pay the price of paying attention.
Everyone wants to feel that he or she is noticed. Is there anything more frustrating or disheartening than to try to speak to someone who is not listening? We’re all guilty of it from time to time. Sometimes those who love us have to find creative ways to draw our attention to them. My own kids found a few years ago that if they couldn’t get my attention despite calling “Dad, Dad” several times, that they could bring me out of any reverie by simply saying “Oh, Dr. Miles.” The sudden realization that I hadn’t been paying attention, and the subsequent guilt I felt about it, got me refocused on them. But, all of us want to know that someone is listening, that someone understands, and is willing to give themselves to us. Love begins with acknowledgment.
Love grows with acceptance. Perhaps there is someone whom you love or know who has a way of doing certain things, or an irritating habit, or a particular manner that can just drive you up the wall. Whatever it may be, you’ve been with them or around them long enough that you despair that it will never disappear. If there is any changing to be done it will probably have to be done by you; your attitude, your response to that problem. Love grows with acceptance.
A pastor I once heard tells of overhearing a conversation between his young daughter and his wife. The daughter was asking, “Momma, if Daddy should die, do you reckon there’s another man in the world just like him?” His wife replied, “Maybe there is, Hon. And it would be just my luck to get him.”
We may suppose that we don’t have a perfect mate or perfect children or perfect parents or siblings or friends. Then again, they could all suppose the same thing of you and me. But, by God’s grace, perfection is not required of any of us. Rather, patience and understanding are.
Now don’t misunderstand me on this point. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you and I are finally off the hook for ourselves. Every one of us has ways and habits that simply drive those around us nuts. For love’s sake, we still have to work on correcting our own displeasing behaviors. Acceptance is what we give to others, not what we demand of others. Love starts with acknowledgement, and grows with acceptance.
And one thing more:, love is the highest calling to which we can aspire, and you and I have been chosen to love. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” We love,” says John in his epistle, “because he first loved us.” We can be present to each other, because God is present to us, hearing us and giving himself to us in Jesus and through the Spirit. We can accept each other, because, by God, we have been accepted.
Francis Thompson, the English poet, once compared God to a blood hound, yes, a hound chasing a soul. You may be familiar with his epic poem, The Hound of Heaven. It is the story of Thompson’s life. As a boy he had intended to become a priest, but his laziness led his father to enroll him in a medical school, thinking that the discipline there would change him. While there, however, he became addicted to opium which almost wrecked him physically and mentally. He became a beggar, slinking about the slums, earning a living by shining shoes, selling matches, and holding horses. Then he met a Christian couple who acknowledged his talent and his sensitive spirit. Through their acceptance he began a new life; a new life in God. Later, as he looked back, he came to see that he had not sought God. In fact, he had run away from God. But God, like the great hound of heaven, would not give up the pursuit of his soul. At every juncture, every turn, every twist in the long path, he could remember hearing the footpads of the hound; the baying call, “Rise, clasp my hand, and come.”
God’s love never slackens or wanes. It never falls victim to weak resolve. It is constant, and consistent, and unending. Acknowledgement, acceptance, and a recognition that the love we share is direct from the heart of God. Love: it is our calling. You and I are chosen.