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Love- A Sermon (St Paul's, Shadwell, 5th May)

(Sermon Notes & a Pre-Record of the Audio)

As the Father has loved me, so have I 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:9–17, ESV)

Brothers and Sisters, in the church liturgical year we are still in the season of Easter so let me begin by sharing an Easter poem I wrote. It is entitled ‘Hope whispers my name’.

Hope whispers my name,

And speaks to my soul.

‘Rest a while,

I have a healing balm and will tend your wounds.’

I counter,

‘But have you seen the pain,

The poison runs deep,

The beasts run wild.’

And hope speaks,

And addresses my wounded heart,


I know.

The night is darkest just before the dawn.

On cursed tree,

Through whip and nail,

The evil of empire,

& the sickness of sin

sinned against me.

Alone in pain.

I breathed my last ‘

Downcast I spoke

‘The beast has won.

As hope lies silent in the grave.

In the book of life, evil will have the last word’

And hope rejoiced

And laughed and sang,

A song of healing love,

‘My beloved one,

This is not true,

The grave did not win.

I was raised to life.

Evil does not have the last word.

Love wins’

And I wept,

And he wiped the tears from my face.

Hope embraced me in his love,

I beheld his face.

We danced,

He is making all things new.

My name is Jon, and I lead a Christian community called Lighthouse, a church for those battered and bruised by the storms of life. For those struggling with addiction, extreme poverty, low cognitive ability, homelessness, and crises in mental health, it is a community of profound pain and suffering; many die young. But it's also a place of deep beauty and love.

We have this little jingle at Lighthouse that rings true: 'In the presence of love, there is always change.' And at Lighthouse, we see life-transforming change, and I have the privilege of witnessing miracles at work on a daily basis.

Sometimes, we see individuals, smashed up by life, being transformed almost overnight by the power and presence of love.

It’s rare, but it’s there.

I think of one lad, a hard, violent man, who came to a church service and was overwhelmed by love. He changed, and shortly afterward, he was baptized.

I have another friend 10 years ago, was sleeping in a car park shooting up heroin. He came to church for something to eat, and after a short conversation and prayer he was overwhelmed by the love and grace of Jesus, and he stopped using heroin.

Moreover, as a community, we committed ourselves to love and promised he would never have a night on the streets again, even though for several years he had no access to benefits and was physically unable and too vulnerable to work.

Love looks like something, it is costly, it is beautiful.

Ten years later, he is still heroin-free, and has never had another night on the streets.

Love looks like something.

But there is another miracle, what we call the slow burn miracle of love, and we see this on a daily basis. In the presence of love, there is always change, and as we speak about the love of Jesus, as we experience his love mediated by the Holy Spirit, as we love our community, and they love each other, and open themselves to love, change takes place.

I think of another friend, who came to Lighthouse 5 years ago spiritually uninterested, just wanted somewhere to sit, for two years he didn’t speak. And love began to work, in gentleness and kindness. Now our friend sits and chats, joins in with our activities, and he has found not just somewhere to sit, but a home, a safe harbour and a loving family.,

Slow, gradual healing, that can be tracked over months and years; a community being knitted together in love, a newfound confidence and hope for those plagued by low self-esteem, shame, and loneliness. Love turns brokenness into beauty, whereby those marginalized can learn to live with dignity, meaning and purpose.

In our gospel reading today, we are invited afresh to behold the beauty and mystery of love.

Let me draw out three points based on the words of Jesus.

Firstly, Jesus says, 'As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.' This is theological dynamite for both our world and our own hearts that can blow away isolation. Those who think they are unlovable, and now loved,

Love is a healing balm that has the power to heal hearts and souls, and offers an intimacy which can surround us whatever befalls.

People like me and you, are in desperate need of love and affection from our earliest breath to our dying day.

It seems that the capacity for Love is hardwired into the human heart, as the Beatles sang ‘all you need is love’

Just as a baby requires milk to grow physically, so the newborn also requires love and affection. Study after study has shown that for an infant to flourish they require love and affection. Those who as a child did not receive this love often find their cognitive and emotional development is impaired. This love-shaped hole created in childhood can often be filled as an adult with addictive behavior or a string of self-destructive relationships. The utopian dream for many is simply an illusion. We are all looking for love but sometimes we look in the wrong places. Jesus answers the deepest cries of our hearts.

Jesus loves us as much as his Father loves him. For all eternity, the eternal Son of God has dwelt and abided in the love, delight, and embrace of the Father. The Father speaks, 'This is my son, whom I love, in him I am well pleased.'

Just as the Father loves the Son, so Jesus loves us. At Lighthouse, we sometimes do what we call 'holy eyeballing,' whereby we catch the eyes of those in deep suffering and despair and speak these gospel words: 'Jesus loves you, he has always loved you, he loves you right now, and he will always love you.'

Secondly, in this passage, we also see that the one who speaks of love is the one who will die for love. Jesus is the one who will lay down his life for his friends, for his sheep, greater love has no one than to lay down their life for other.’ You see God demonstrates his own love for us that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

At the heart of the Christian story is the Christian story is the crucified god who embraces the world, is sinned against, who identifies with the marginalised, yet his dying words are ‘father forgive them’

. The cross is a revelation, not as some would say of the wrath of God, but of the love of God.

Thirdly, three times in this passage we hear the words we are ‘abide in love’. We are to abide in the love of Jesus, or to put it differently we are to remain in his love, bathe in his affection, or we may say marinade in his love so that we rest in it and soak it in. We are to turn towards this love and embrace it.

How might we embody this? Jesus tells us that we are to keep his commandments, and what is the law of Jesus? It is the law, the ethic of love. Jesus summarizes his commandments when he says, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.' Love looks like something, obedience looks like something;

it’s vertical—loving God—but also horizontal, loving others, loving neighbors, and even loving our enemies.

And lastly, in this passage, Jesus draws this all together by saying, 'This is my commandment, that you love one another.' Brothers and sisters, let us heed the command of Jesus to love one another.

Let us love one another in this church. We are a family called in love, to live in love, to show loving unity in diversity, to manage conflict in love, to embrace life’s moments in love, knitted together in love, led by love into love.

Brothers and sisters, the world is in a mess, the world is in peril, a world of war and a world in climate breakdown; love provides a way forward as an outworking of allegiance to him who has first loved us. The powers and principalities of are dominated by the forces of money, power, and military might. In contrast, we follow the way of Jesus; we pledge allegiance to the lamb, the one who rules and reigns with self-giving sacrificial love, and the one who says, 'Love one another.'

In Jesus, we see that love is costly, but that it is also credible, and whatever befalls love endures. In the presence of his love, there is always change; as we love, may we be changed to be more like him.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A Holy Trinity of Love


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