“What Part of My Life Can I Give Up for Others?
As I looked over the readings for today, I saw that they all talked about love. I thought “That should be easy to preach on.” Love…isn’t that all about things we are fond of…things we enjoy…Then I really looked at what the passages were saying. I realized that the kind of love Jesus is talking about is not just about things we really like. Jesus talks about love as an active and intentional practice.
Listen again to what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel:
“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.”
“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.”
“I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”
Jesus tells us there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He did exactly that. He laid down his life for us, people he never knew, and yet called friends. He first laid down his life in heaven to come to our world to help us learn. Then he laid down his life on earth and allowed himself to be crucified for our salvation.
A few Sundays ago, we heard Jesus tell us:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ”
The life of a good shepherd is a careful and very active one. A shepherd must know each sheep individually, he must clear paths everyday for the sheep to walk, he must lead the sheep to good pastures, and he must protect them from dangers and predators. At night, the sheep are gathered in a pen for safety. If the shepherd is aware of danger or predators in the area, he will sleep across the gate to the pen. The shepherd puts himself at risk so no harm will come to his sheep. The shepherd literally lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus takes on this role, knowing, guiding, leading, and protecting us and even dying for us.
I don’t think Jesus is asking us to follow him by literally dying for one another, but he is asking us to consider how we respond to the needs of others and give up part of our lives for the benefit of others. Think of parents who give up sleep, time, and money to lovingly raise their children. Think of all the nurses and healthcare workers who serve to the point of exhaustion, mentally and physically, to fight this covid pandemic and save lives. Think of the “essential workers” who carry out their jobs quietly and allow themselves to be potentially exposed to the virus. Think of the rescue workers who use trucks, boats, and helicopters to save people from floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters. These people are willing to put themselves at risk, to put their lives aside to benefit others without weighing the risks and cost to themselves.
A few weeks ago, Dorcas Monari, a Black woman, was sitting peacefully, but alone, in the middle of the street in front of a police station in Minnesota. The police came out of the police station and had gathered around her. Another woman, Phoenix Robles, was driving to work and saw her. She stopped her car and got out. She then asked Dorcas “What’s up? Can I sit with you?”. Dorcas answered simply that she was there “For George Floyd”. Phoenix recognized that the woman was in mental distress and she wanted to deescalate the situation. Phoenix, who is a social worker, asked police to let her talk to the woman and she spent several hours with Dorcas. When Jesus said “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”, this is the kind of love he was talking about. Phoenix took the risk of possibly being killed to help a woman she didn’t know who was having a mental health crisis.
I don’t know that we will ever be in a situation that dramatic but today Jesus is asking us, how do we respond to the needs of others around us? As someone I know said, “When your friend breaks her foot, do you send a card saying you are sorry this happened? Or do you go over there with a shovel to clear the snow from her driveway?”
When my daughter, Marissa, was in third grade, we had new neighbors who had just arrived from Poland. They spoke English but with a heavy accent. We got to know them over the summer. When school started in the fall, the three children were on Marissa’s school bus. A few weeks in, one of the bigger fifth grade boys started picking on the first grade Polish boy’s language difficulties. My daughter stood up to the fifth grader saying “Do you speak another language? He speaks two! Leave him alone!” She risked her own safety and freedom from harassment to stand up for this young boy. I was proud of her but I wondered if I would have had the courage to do the same.
As another preacher said “Laying down our life for others means going out of our way to meet another’s need. It means giving up a part of our lives, sacrificing our own resources and energy to meet the needs of another person.”
And on this Mother’s Day, we can be reminded that this is what good mothers do every day… especially when their children are young. They put aside their own sleep to wake up and nurture their crying baby.
So how do you respond to the needs of others around you? Can you bring food to Trumbull Social Services to support our neighbors in need? Can you volunteer to pick up lunches at school and deliver them to the children’s homes? Do you know someone who lives alone and would appreciate a phone call? Have you read the Anti-Racism Alliance newsletter to see how you can join their efforts? Do you know of job openings for someone who is out of work? Do you support our local small businesses that are struggling to survive?
In the week ahead ask yourself, “If Jesus could lay down his own life for us, what part my life can I give up for others?”
When you lay down your life, a little each day, you are modeling Christ-like grace. You are sharing love. You are becoming more like Jesus… And what could be better than that?
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, help us to see the needs of others with your eyes. Let us be willing to put aside our life for the benefit of others. Show us how to be friends to Jesus by loving the way he did, by following your commandments, by laying down our lives to make the world a better and more loving place. Amen.
Collect: O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
1 Sing to the Lord a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.
2 With his right hand and his holy arm *
has he won for himself the victory.
3 The Lord has made known his victory; *
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.
4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, *
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
5 Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; *
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.
6 Sing to the Lord with the harp, *
with the harp and the voice of song.
7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
shout with joy before the King, the Lord.
8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
the lands and those who dwell therein.
9 Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
when he comes to judge the earth.
10 In righteousness shall he judge the world *
and the peoples with equity.
1 John 5:1-6
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.
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.”