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Sunday 5 May 2024 Sixth Sunday of Easter

Love God, and do whatever you please

Acts 10:44-48; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

By Michael Kane

Chaplain and Coordinator of Spiritual Life at Nazarene Theological College; Lead Pastor at Brooklands Church of the Nazarene, Manchester. Originally from Glasgow, Michael is married to Debbie and together they have an eight-year-old son, Mikey

Context: a Sunday morning service at a Church of the Nazarene, a family and community church in the Wesleyan-Holiness Tradition. To a mixture of ages from late teens to 80s and 90s (after children have left for their own teaching), - culturally diverse, reflecting the local demographics

Aim: to inspire love-in-action among Christians in response to God’s love

Don’t you hate when you are misquoted or misheard? Has that ever happened to you? It can be a funny thing. Like the time when comedian Rich Hall was introduced to (the then) Prince Charles after the Royal Variety Performance. Rich Hall politely said, ‘I’m a comedian’, to which the future King Charles said, ‘a Canadian? Oh dear!’

But it can also be a dangerous thing. There are examples of misquoting and misinterpreting of information leading to violence and war throughout history. See the ‘Gulf of Tonkin incident’ prior to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. Or the more recent war in Iraq, which started following poor interpretation of information from a report on weapons of mass destruction.

The title of this sermon comes from a quote usually attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo. But upon further research, it appears that this is a misquote, or at least a paraphrase from his sermon on 1 John 4. The whole quote actually looks like this:

Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it? The idea that if love lies at the centre of all we are as Christians then that centre won’t find itself far from God. Or as Christ put it: ‘Now remain in my love’ (John 15: 9).

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this love is static, stationary or passive. Don’t be in danger of misquoting Christ. Christ will go on to say in John 15 that this love bears fruit. This love looks like something. This love acts. This love does. This love obeys. This love sacrifices, even unto death. This love serves. This love shares everything with friends.

In the text in 1 John 5 we hear more of the same – love obeys and obeying is loving one another. Except this time the teaching is couched in a beautiful picture of love that goes beyond friendship. Here we see that the fount this love flows from is the Divine relationship of Father and Son, and we too are invited in as God’s children. This love goes beyond friendship. It makes family out of friends!

And our reading from Acts dares to go even further. Here we see a love driven by the Holy Spirit, God, being extended to strangers and outsiders. This outward moving love-in-action – which in all honesty is a good tagline for the whole book of Acts – takes strangers and makes them friends, even family.

And so as we, as followers of Christ, seek to apply these truths to our everyday lives, may we be a people who meet everyday challenges with the following question: ‘what does love look like, here?’ In that difficult work conversation, what does love look like? In that challenging family situation, what does love look like? In our conversations and our interactions, what does love look like? If we are found to be people who ask that question, and act on it, then, ‘of this root can nothing spring but what is good.’ For God is Love. And God is outward moving dynamic Spirit. God is Spirit is Love. And so out of the love of God, love. Love God and do.

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