Page last updated



Unconditional Love
John 15:9-17

Jim from B.C.

Here's my sermon, using some ideas I found on DPS:

Lisa Birnie, an occasional columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail, was a writer-in- residence at a university medical centre in Melbourne, Australia, in 1998, and in a column that I clipped out, she writes about her experiences there, in the palliative care centre, with people who were dying and their families and friends.

She said she had a great time. Not that it was fun, but she said that she learned so much.

Let me read a bit from the last part of her column. "Money doesn't count. No one who was dying boasted to me of the money they had in the bank or the title they'd acquired in their career. They didn't complain about not being named head of their department or losing an account they'd hankered after. None of this meant anything, not so much because they were dying but because proximity to life's end brought with it an extraordinarily clear vision of reality. They saw things that were always there, but that were previously, for whatever reason, not to be looked at. I'm not saying they didn't appreciate money or its trappings, but just that they'd finally got them slotted in their right place.

"When they described their careers to me, it was inevitably in the context of how much of their deepest selves they'd been able to give to them. ‘I was always a compassionate woman,' one person told me, recalling her long years as a nurse and finding her identity not in her profession but in the compassion she practised within that profession.

"‘I had to leave law school at 14,' a man in his late 50's told me, ‘so I had to work as a labourer all my life. But I stuck with it, always provided well for my wife and kids because family, that's what counts in the end, family and friends.'

Ms. Birnie goes on to write: "This might sound mawkish, but that's part of our problem. Love counts, family counts, friends count. Not much else counts. These accompany you as deeply as you can be accompanied, while all the rest stays far behind."

Reading this, I'm reminded of the famous words of St. Paul: "Faith, hope and love abide. But the greatest of these is love."

When Jesus spoke the words of today's Gospel Lesson, he was nearing the end of HIS life on this earth, so he spoke to his disciples about the things that counted most: love and friendship. "This is my commandment," he says to his disciples, "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."

He was asking them to lay down their lives, but he was also speaking of himself, of what he himself was going to do for them, on the cross, laying down HIS life.

The love that Jesus showed his disciples, and showed us and showed the world, is the only human example we have, of perfect love, complete love, unconditional love, totally unselfish love.

It's an example we cannot follow! But we can TRY. In fact, we HAVE to try, otherwise we have no reason for living. Life is for love. Love is what God has called us to do, above everything else.

You may remember that some teachers of the Old Testament Law once came up to Jesus and tried to trap him with a question. They said: "Rabbi, out of the hundreds of commandments of the law, which is the most important? Jesus answered quickly: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

So everything we do as a church, and everything we do in our personal life, is to fulfill this call to love.

In 2nd Corinthians, St. Paul said, in this regard, that we are ambassadors for Christ. Let me quote this passage in Today's English Version, because it uses the simpler term "making friends" instead of "reconciliation". "..... Christ changed us from enemies into his friends, and gave us the task of making others his friends also. Our message is that God was making all mankind his friends through Christ. God did not keep account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends."

Jesus made us ALL his friends, through laying down his life for us. So he says in verse 15 of today's Gospel Lesson: "I do not call you servants any longer. . . but friends."

Most of us love others as if they were our servants; in other words, for what they can do for us, and if they stop being able to do for us, we no longer love them.

I came across this cute joke: A newly married man asks his wife, "Dear, would you have married me if my father had not left me a fortune?" "Darling," the woman replied sweetly, "I would have married you no matter WHO left you a fortune."

To be Christian means we are called to love ALL people, under ALL conditions, with all that we have, and all of our ability. That's why, for instance, we must go to church rather than stay at home and watch a service on TV. To be with fellow Christians is an act of love, especially if they have halitosis, sing off-key, have clammy hands, and stand too close. You will find people who are hard to love not only outside the church, but also inside the church: kids who drop pencils, teenagers who giggles at the Communion rail, young adults who love that horrible rap music, seniors who shout in order to hear themselves. We are called to love all people, including imperfect people like ourselves.

One kind of people that many of us find hard to love, are homosexuals. A denomination called Metropolitan Community Church has been growing because many homosexual people have been unable to find unconditional love in other churches. The truth is, homosexual people often have a lot of bravado, but deep down, feel they are not good enough to be treated with respect and with dignity. So they "duck and cover" when there is the slightest hint that someone may reject them. They need to be loved as we do, unconditionally, as Jesus loves all of us. They need to be loved for who they are, AS they are, not with a view to making them over into what we want them to be. We need to leave the making over part to God, who alone has the power! Our business, our calling, is to love unconditionally. The paradox is that ONLY THEN do people really receive the power to change.

I've been surprised again and again with a certain little boy. When I pressure him, to get him to do what I want him to do, it usually brings resistance and anger. But when I give him freedom of choice, he usually ends up choosing to do what I want him to do!

Jesus' life on earth is our perfect example of unconditional love.

But Jesus is also our sustenance. The divine Son of God is also our food. He is the Spirit within us that empowers us to love. So we eat and drink the Son of God. We lap up the love God has for us. We glory in it, we wallow in it, we wash in it, we fill our minds and bodies with it, every Sunday and every day— to stay aware and appreciative of how much we are loved.

Here's how one preacher reminded his congregation. He said: "If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If God had a wallet, your photo would be in it. God sends us flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. When you want to talk, God listens. God can live anywhere in the universe but has chosen your heart. Face it friend, God is crazy about you."

God is saying: "I want to fulfill your spiritual needs. I want to share my awesome love with you. I want to reveal my awesome plans for you. I want to be your God and I want you to be my child. I love you so much that it hurts. I sent my son Jesus to die for you. If you had been the only person on earth— I would have sent my son to die just for you. I know you inside and out. I knew you even before you were conceived in your mother's womb. I made you. I want you to exist. And I want you as my child forever.

A true friend, said somebody named Elbert Hubbard, is someone who knows all about you, and still likes you. So "What a friend we have in Jesus!" Through his love, God sustains us.

Now, with this unconditional love that we have received, this amazing grace, let us go and bear fruit, fruit that will last— let us love another. Amen.