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O Canada - obedience we do like

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Lord, into your hands we offer you our thoughts and reflections, may you bless us to hear only your word, and to act on only your ways, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

On Friday afternoon I came downstairs to the main office after spending some time in sermon preparation.

            I came down to get a break, to get a glass of water or whatever - but mainly to get             a          break

                        Joanna took one look at me and said - “smile”

I have no idea what I looked like

            I didn’t feel unhappy,

                        I was just off in thought of what the scripture was telling me this week.

            you see, I didn’t like where it was going and therefore where my sermon would go

                        I was trying to get an angle or an approach in the text that would be more                          favorable

There is an old saying - I don’t know where I heard it, but it goes something like this:

            “there are no hard decisions - just decisions that you don’t like”

in facing the gospel reading this week, I was faced with a truth that I didn’t want to preach on

            the more I looked into the passage the clearer the message was,

                        which made living with the decision that much harder

Now of course I could simply by-pass the gospel reading

            There are three reading each week - four if you include the seldom read Psalm… so           there are lots of choices

                        I could also look at a fragment of the Gospel and let be a spring-board into                        some topic of my choosing

                                    But that wouldn’t be honest to you or to what has been reveal to me in                               my studies this week

                                                And then there is this nagging thought

                                                            This “rule” if you like, that my homiletics professor at                                                          school used to advocate

            “Look for the problem in the text - if it bothers you, you can bet it will bother others         and that is the active work of the Holy Spirit - preach on that”

So with all that - here you go

On the surface, the first reading of the passage, seems to be a simple message of Love

            A heart-warming message whereby Jesus restates the “new commandment” to love            one another as He has loved

                        In the mix we hear that the disciples have moved up the ladder from servants                     to friends

                                    Privy to the master’s plans

                                                That we are of God’s choosing - he wants us…

                                                            And that everything circles back to a that warm                                                                    message of Love

But when you look at the wording a little deeper there is one key troubling word that keeps coming up

            Command or commandment 

                        - it comes up clearly four times

                                    It is a hard word to soft-pedal around - to reduce the impact

            It is not a negotiable word

                        There is no flexibility in the word

                                    It’s not “you might want to do this”

                                                Or “maybe you could think of that”

                                                            The word is a clear directive

To put the passage in context - Jesus time is running out

            It is set in the upper room on the last night before the cross

                        They have shared in the Passover meal                      

                                    He has washed their feet - taught them a new way to live in servitude                                 towards each other

                                                and this is part of a series of instructions and teachings - to his                                             closest friends - on his last night

Jesus in passing on this new way of life tells it in a plain and clear way

            He commands them to Love one another as He has loved them

Now as an aside - we know the end of the story and we quickly jump right to the end

            We all did it in our Bible study on Friday morning - myself included

                        We think of the full story of How Christ loved

                                    How he died on the cross

                                                And when Christ commands them to love as He has

                                                            We see this as a really tall order

But there might be a different way to look at this - and it is a subtle variation that makes this commandment both more realistic and more effective

            The phrase is … “as I HAVE loved you”

                        So the focus is in what Jesus has shown them up to this point

                                    We are to love as modeled by the LIFE of service that Jesus has shown

                                                Not necessarily the death he will do

            This different perspective changes how we might read the next line

                        “No one has a greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”

                                    Now we can consider laying down our life, not merely in dieing for                                    another - but living unselfishly for one’s friends

                                                It brings into perspective our Lord’s prayer

                                                            “On earth as it is in heaven”

                                                                        living righteously, unselfishly

both more realistic - we can all strive to do things in life

            and in the end likely to leave a lasting ongoing impact (we are still around to answer          questions) and be more effective

Jesus then presents them with a new offering of status


                        But this too has some strings attached

You are my friends… IF… you do what I command you

            Friends… if … you follow the Lord’s directive

                        Friends conditional on obedience

And that is precisely what I found to be the most difficult part of the passage

            - Obedience -

We in the west, live in a culture that does not like to be told what to do

            And it is instinctual

                        I can tell you for certain that if I tell my kids what to do

                                    They will do the opposite

                                                (unless of course they sense my reverse psychology)

                                    they get it from their mother-side…

                        truthfully they get it from both of us - and we are no different then most

obedience is a hard pill to swallow

            the west was founded on people that didn’t want to stay in oppressive Europe

                        and we are part of a protestant denomination of Christians

                                    Protest -ants

we don’t need to look very far in the news to see our society’s lack of obedience

            Friday was an aboriginal national day of action

                        The day chosen to coincide with the first day of summer vacation

            A report came out of England last week which said that 2/3 of all people break the            law all the time if they think they can get away with it

                        Only 1 in 10 said that they would give back the excess change if a teller made                   a mistake

                                    When one knows that they have more then they are due - it is both                                      lying and stealing

                                                but 90% of us are disobedient

                                                            disobedient to God and the law of the land

The trend is not lessening over time - but increasing

            Our post modern culture motto could be

                        “I accept you have a opinion, but it is no more valid then my own”

                        or - “what’s true for you is your truth - and what’s true for me, is my truth”

            no longer are our truths a product of community

                        no longer do we need to be obedient to communional expectations

But Jesus, in our Gospel reading from John today, directly challenges that

            Jesus commends us to Love

                        Jesus says we are his friends IF we do what he commands

                                    No longer servants/slaves but friends

                                                Friends that get to see the master’s plans

                                                            But friends conditionally

            Jesus tells us that it wasn’t our choice but His

                        He chose us

Chose us for a purpose to GO and bear fruit - fruit that will last…

            And what is that fruit?


In this passage we have a more full understanding of Love

            Not merely our free-will action

                        Take it or leave it

                                    Take the good parts but leave out the obligations


            Jesus commands us to Love

                        Teaches us that Love includes obedience

It is a difficult paradigm in our culture

            We mistrust authority and obedience

As you can see from this sermon, I came to accept and act on the part of the gospel reading that bothered me today

            I trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, that God’s message will bother some of you as       well

                        That you will face the challenges that ‘love in obedience’ calls for

In the end I accept His choosing me

            I want to be His friend

                        I will follow his commandments

            In the end - I want the fullest picture of God’s love

                        I will be obedient - and strive to Love as He lived and loved us

And what does all this have to do with Canada day?

            Well maybe it is best explained in the forth and final seldom sung verse of our       National anthem

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion, in thy loving care.
Help us to find, O God, in thee,
A lasting rich reward.
As waiting for the better day,
We ever stand on guard.
God keep our land, glorious and free.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

It is a prayer

            A prayer for the nation - for others

                        A personal petition to a personal God

                                    With a pledge (and an underlined commitment) to wait for THE better day

            Standing on guard - a clear act of obedience for Love in a greater good then oneself

Happy Canada Day! - Amen

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