May 6, 2018 sermon
John 15:9-17/ 1 John 5:1-6
Discipleship: Love in Action
I have been moving around a lot both as a child with my family and as an adult, so making friends was not always easy. You might befriend someone and thought they were friends, but they might turn out to be not so serious about their relationship with you. In French, there are two words for “friend”; one is copain, which indicates a friend that you hang out with but your relationship is rather shallow. Then there is ami, which is a true friend with whom you share a deeper relationship. After I came to Montreal 6 years ago, I met some friends who turned out to be amis, and some who turned out to be copains. My friends Mike and Konstantine especially became true pals; Mike was one of the friends who came to Kimberley to get married. I knew they were true friends because they were there for me when I was going through difficulties. For example, when I was heartbroken, Mike was the first person I thought of and called, and he canceled his appointment to come to me. I knew both of them were true pals because they were there for me when I needed them. If someone calls themselves your friend and ignores you when you need them, you will know that they are not really friends.
This is the lesson we are learning from our scripture readings today. What does it mean to love? What does it mean to be God’s children and disciples of Jesus? What does it mean and what does it entail? According to 1 John chapter 5, obedience is the only proof of our love for God. John 15: 14 says, if we obey, we are the friends of Jesus. Note that it is not us who chose Jesus; Jesus chose us. We were chosen to be God’s people. But for what were we chosen? The author of John’s gospel says, we were chosen to be Jesus’ friends, to love one another, and bear fruit of love. Jesus gave his followers and friends a commandment, and that is to love one another.
Let us pause for a minute and think about the love of which Jesus speaks. I think we all know that Christian love is not an easy matter. Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. How easy is it to love someone who mistreats us? Not easy! Even when we succeed, I’m sure it’s the result of a lot of prayers. Yet, 1 John 5:3 says God’s commandment is not a burden. The commandment to love even our enemies is not something we can do without the help of God, so how is this not a burden when we already think God is asking too much of us? This is the paradox of Christian love. God asks a lot of us, but that great love, seemingly and humanly impossible love, God will give us. Here’s an old story; Someone once met a boy going to school long before the days when transport was provided. He was carrying a smaller boy on his back, who was clearly lame and unable to walk. The stranger said to him, “Do you carry him to school every day?” “Yes,” said the boy. “That’s a heavy burden for you to carry,” said the stranger. “He’s no’ a burden,” said the boy. “He’s my brother.” This story reminds me of an old song called, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” I used to think this title was funny because my brother was overweight.
What is love? What does love entail? What should we do if we love God who loved us first and chose us? As we have seen at the beginning, if we love someone, we need to show it. We recognize love because we can see the acts of love. First of all, if we love God, we should love what God loves; God’s people and all of God’s creation. So how can we show our love for God? We can live by the gospel teachings of which the essence is to love one another. We love God’s people, care for their well-being, protect the earth and environment that God gave us as our home, as well as all its inhabitants. If we love God, if we care, we show it with our acts of love.
A long time ago in South Korea, we started seeing billboard message that said, “Love is a verb.” It was the Red Cross promoting blood donation. The message they were trying to convey was, “If you care, donate blood and save lives.” Love is indeed a verb. Love is action. According to our main hymn book Voices United, discipleship is defined as “Discipleship: love in action”; it’s a section in our hymn book. Check it out when we sing the next hymn after the reflection. We who are chosen by God and decided to follow Jesus are called disciples. As we have seen in today’s gospel text, disciples are chosen to go out into the world and love. Our job as disciples is to share our love for God and for each other with action; love in action.
What I love most about the United Church of Canada is its commitment to justice. A long time ago, I first dreamed of joining the United Church of Canada because it’s a church that ordains gay people; but our commitment to justice is much more than that. We are committed to environmental justice, reconciliation with the First Nations of Canada, racial justice, gender justice, and economic justice. We are serious about protecting the environment, empowering women, people of colour, the poor, and our First Nations brothers and sisters. If you take a look at the Gifts with Vision catalogue, you will see how our United Church is committed to working towards making this world a better place for everyone, focusing on the marginalized groups. We believe that because of God’s love for us, because we are taught to love and care for one another, we should live a lifestyle of love, serving and helping those who are in need. We believe that love is action; we call discipleship “love in action”. Therefore, let us go out into the world carrying God’s unconditional love. Let us go to the dark corners of our world and share the love of God through our concrete actions. Maybe today we will pay more attention listening to the Mission and Ministry Moment and see what our church is doing as a part of our acts of love.
Rev. Sunny Kim