Easter 5-C, 5/6/07

“Hearts in Christian Love”
John 13: 31-35

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

n our story we overhear Jesus preparing his followers to be able to get along without his physical leadership. He was preparing them to take over the leadership of the bourgeoning Church that has been taking shape since the Resurrection. On this fifth Sunday after Easter it is appropriate to hear Jesus describe that which will become the central elements that will be necessary for the church to begin to solidify and grow in numbers.

The very first churches were much like our, they needed most of the same things. First, they needed committed church members who would be loyal to Christ, whom most of them had known personally, and naturally had a deep faith in what he had instructed them to begin to do. He had taught them how to build the churches. Many individuals and families were prepared to sell their belongings and go into whatever mission field that the Apostles would soon assign them. They were committed to Christ and His Church

We need at least a germinal mustard seed's worth of faith and calling in our churches today. her at St. John Methodist we have a long list of folks who have given a major part of their time, talents, time and money to build up their our church. Some of you who came along after the founding of this strategic church on the richest road that runs through some of the finest homes and families in all of Atlanta. We have been called to a wonderful place to serve. Unlike some of the early missionaries sent by the Apostles to risk their lives, and in some cases they did. In a sense we are living in the best of times.

Our new parking lot was filled with hundreds of wonderful children and their dedicated parents as they came for the Spring Festival sponsored by our Children's Development Center. However, many of these families are unchurched. The only Christian influence on their tender lives will have to come through our CDC. I feel like it will happen. Some of these little ones will be seen leading this church in 30 years, and they will still be having the Spring Festival.

I hope that some of the parents will be attracted by the obvious bonds of love between our membership. The first thing that Jesus said that the churches would need was "Hearts in Christian Love."

Mutual bonding among groups is not an unusual thing. College freshmen form friendships that will stay with them all of their lives. Sunday School classes form deep relationships among the friendly folks. This is normal among most human groupings. However, there is something unusual and wonderful that goes on in Christian groups, if they have it going correctly. It is no secret that individuals can draw super close after years of singing out of an old paper back hymnal every Sunday for 40 years. Wonderful and loving people populate these Adult Sunday School Classes that are in every church.

But even more is going on in Sunday School Classes, men's and women's groups for our text says that we are following the "new commandment" from Jesus, "That we love one another." That is not all. Jesus said we should love each other with a kind of sanctified and deeper heart felt love, "Just as Jesus had loved them." We are called to love with unselfish love as did our Lord and Savior. I say that it is "sanctified" because it is an experience that we could never concoct on our own. This deep kind of love comes alive in us not by our own efforts; rather, it has to come as a gift from God. I believe that if we will ask God to give us this deeper love for other people, that He will do so. Furthermore, if this "New Commandment" love is so vital for churches to grow, then God will give us the ability to love that deeply. Now, even beyond this great love among the saints. The real practical and obvious thing about Jesus' approach to church growth, is that un-churched persons will be drawn to St. John as they see and experience the bonds of mutual love as hearts are tied together in Christ.

As Jesus said, "By this shall all people know that you are truly my disciples, when you show mutual love toward one another." (v. 35)

One of my heroes in the ministry is John Ed Matheson, Pastor of what probably is the Methodist Church in the world, in a the city of Montgomery, Alabama. You may see him preaching on television in his blue blazer. He must think that the lack of liturgical apparel gives him a more human touch. One of his famous sayings that anybody could have thought up, but didn't, is that church visitors are mainly looking for a congregation that is "friendly." He could have called it, "love for one another." If I were visiting churches I would be very attracted to a large group of people who obviously love one another in Christian love. What we all mean by this deeper love is not just "glad handing." There can sometime be an obvious insincerity in "good old boys, and girls too, just "glad handing."

I am sure that some of the friendliness that goes on at Frazier Memorial Church is superficial, but there must be a lot of true Christian brotherly love in that great church. All attest to an unusual level of respect, trust and a willingness to put themselves on the line, for their beloved friends who are mutually bonded in Christ.

We don't get to see that too often, but it has been my experience that we see it a lot in our small groups at church. I feel it in our Sanctuary whenever I take my seat in the Chancel, and when I stand up to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Before we can portray this real "love for one another," we have to get back to Jesus and how much he loved all of us. He even loves those who do not love him. We have to recall the dying Savior and allow ourselves to be grasped by His grace, forgiveness and pure unmitigated love.

This love for one another is not really attainable on our own. It is given out to one sinner at a time as we allow our hearts, minds, plans and dreams to be re-vamped by Jesus. The same Jesus whom we are quoting in our sermon text is still going after recruits to volunteer to fight in His Army. And Jesus will not be satisfied until each of us allow Him to work His miracle in our hearts.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
Easter 5-C, 5/6/07