JULY 6, 2020 MONDAY
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends — John 15:13
Jesus is quite clear. To follow him is to pattern your as his, allegiance to God’s Kingdom before any other. Our citizenship with God shapes how we live in this world.
Jesus’ life models literally what sacrificial love for others means. You and I offer our lives for others as citizens of God’s kingdom. We live and embody God’s values – justice, love, peace for all — values shaping God’s people from the beginning. Jesus teaches, lived and died for them for us. In following him we lay down our lives to extend God’s kingdom into this world. When you pray the Lord’s Prayer – “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” you invite God to act through you. God’s reign comes through loving and serving others, as Jesus did in his human life on earth.
I was in grade school – probably fourth or fifth grade when The Oberammergau Passion Play came to Hickory. A school friend and I alternated nights playing the role of the boy who brings Pilate the basin of water to wash his hands, a sign of his reluctance to hand Jesus over for crucifixion. Curtains close. The set changes. A large wooden cross is rolled to center stage. The Jesus character, a crown of thorns, climbs up. Curtains opened. The single spotlight is on Jesus, on the cross. The chorus sings the John Steiner anthem, “God So Loved the World.” Whenever I hear that anthem, I relive that moving scene, etched in me with those words, “God so loved the world.” Through the years, the power of John 3:16 — Jesus’ teaching in John 15, to give your life, to lay down your “cross,” to die to “self,” follow him in all of life, is at the heart of my theology, teaching, preaching, and living. It’s a struggle. I fail. I keep trying and praying for strength to grow into more fully into God’s love – how God so loves you, me, and each person in this world.
We pray for the kingdom to come. God prays through us, our lives and actions, that we become vessels to fulfill the prayer we pray. The meek, through crazy kingdom values like love and service to others, quietly build God’s kingdom on earth. Each day, we choose which kingdom shapes the other.
In your thoughts, words and actions this day, notice how you live this “greater love” of Jesus. In your prayers at the end of the day, reflect on moments you have felt close to God. Give thanks for God’s love and presence. Then listen for moments you felt apart from God. Give thanks for these moments, as well. For in them you are aware, no matter where you are, what you’ve said and wish you hadn’t, what you did and wish you didn’t, God is with you, in His love. But you get to choose to be with God. That’s how great is the God who so loves. Neither life nor death – nothing separates us from God’s love — now and forever. Count on it. So this day, choose wisely.Blessings, love and grace, Fr. Steve