Psalm 105: 1-3
John 13: 34b
John 13:34b, the basis for our life with Christ and the central theme of these studies.
We Meditate on God’s love in order to fulfill Jesus’ new command by loving others with the love we meet in Christ in the midst of our lives.
God’s love God’s Love initiates. God’s Love invites. God’s Love always has time for us.
Week One: Lord, Do You Love Me?
This week we begin a series on prayer. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus begins his promise to give us rest by saying that it is simple. Tired? Rushing about? Is your life more complicated than you wish? Come, find rest because Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matt 11:25-30)
Odd, isn’t it. Jesus did not say that if you want to find rest stop working. He said, “my yoke is easy (it fits properly and distributes the burden of work so it does not aggravate us and we accomplish more with less effort) and my burden is light (carrying it strengthens us rather than crushes us).” You will experience this over and over again. Being aware of where God is involved in our relationships, seeing our opportunities to love of Christ’s love transforms our work from an aggravating, depleting experience to one that fills and strengthens.
We begin with one of the last things that Jesus said to his disciples and through them to us. It is a gem, a “refrigerator passage,” one of those statements from Scriptures that belongs on our refrigerator until we have it memorized and make it our own. In the upper room Jesus said: “Love others as God loves you.” (John 13: 34b) Jesus called it his new commandment. If we do that, life becomes simpler, fresher and fascinating. Would you like to be fascinated by God’s love? Come and join us.
How does God love you? When in the last day or two were you aware of that love? If you are like most Christian people you will say that God has loved you by giving you good family, wonderful friends and useful work to do. God shows you beauty in the sunset and in your dear friend’s laughter.
Meditation on God’s love reveals at least the following three things which his people often fail to appreciate. God’s Love initiates. God’s Love invites. God’s Love always has time for us. To love as Christ commands we become initiators, inviters and hearers.
First, God’s love initiates. Love is urgent. This urgency is nowhere better seen than in the fact that God does hold his breath in Heaven waiting for us to catch on. God initiates contact even in the midst of human messiness. As Paul notes, we are still in our sins when Christ comes to us (Romans 5:6-8). God does not shy away from the clutter of real lives.
One day, Jesus was hungry, tried and hot. He was headed north with his disciples and in a hurry. Sitting not far from Jacob’s well located outside the Samaritan city of Sychar, Jesus watched as a woman approached to draw water. Though tired and hungry, He hauled himself together and initiated the conversation. He asked for a drink of water. By the time he was through, he had changed her life forever and founded the church in Samaria. The story is in John Chapter 4 and I encourage you to read it.
This encounter is filled with the power of God initiating love. When we love others in ways that are comfortable and pleasant and familiar, we do well. When we step out of the hurry of our lives into the messiness of others, we do better at least sometimes. This too is a part of God’s love. This is the love that inspires the best within the community of faith. The love catches the attention of those outside the family of God. Love offered in the midst of the hurry of another’s life is likely to stand out.
God initiates love in the midst of the bustle of everyday activity like gathering water at noon time with lunch to fix, a house to clean and a garden to tend. I confess that I am not like that. I don’t want to interrupt people or be a burden. People are so busy that the last thing they think they want is another opportunity to relate. Like us they are headed to bed in 8 hours with an incomplete “to do” list. If we spend too much time, well we have another unfinished item, right? Like the Rabbit in Alice and Wonderland we sometimes sing, “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.” I want to wait until people are not so busy. The time never comes.
God finds ways to initiate in the midst of busyness. You know. God is right. That ideal time never comes. We learn to initiate in the midst of busyness or remain perpetually silent. So if we learn to ask for God’s to show us what we can say or do in the moments of our relationships to busy people, God will lead us to love busy people in the midst of their bustling lives. Our loves becomes more like His love. As we take time to thank God for the privilege of loving others we learn from God’s own hand how to initiate where we are shy.
Besides initiating, God invites people to sit at his table when walking in the valley of the shadow. That is a promise found in Psalm 23 verse 4. From the outside the person probably appears busy with plenty to do and plenty of people in their lives. If we allow God to remind us of what it means to walk through the valley we see differently. God does not look at the externals, you know, but at the heart. He will give us eyes that see more. Just ask. God will show us opportunities to not only initiate spiritual conversations but to invite people into His presence.
Often we come to see new aspects of God’s love by watching life companions. You see, each of us has our own way of loving others. We can learn from other’s insights. It was thanksgiving and my wife and I had returned to our hometown. The visit was winding down. We had seen our son off at the airport and were headed back towards the house we had rented. My wife suddenly said, “I would like to see Mrs. Jones.” The mother of one of my wife’s oldest friends, she was recently widowed and a new resident of a nursing home. “But they are probably at dinner,” she said.
True, she probably was. We are all busy. There is always something going on. It is never the right time. We have already discussed that. “Well, we can drop in, say Hello, give her a hug and leave. Can’t possibly hurt,” I said.
So off we went. Mrs. Jones was delighted to see my wife, then said, “I have had better thanksgivings.” My wife reminded her of when she had taken dancing lessons with my wife’s mother shortly after they both had a baby. They were feeling kind of fat and frumpy and a mutual friend was starting a dance studio. Mrs. Jones laughed and smiled again. Then she sighed and said, “You know the day will come in which I join my husband for dinner at God’s table.”
“I will comfort you,” God said and so he did through my wife’s recollections. It was beautiful to watch God love Mrs. Jones through my wife’s warm heart. We were busy. Mrs. Jones was busy. But Bessie invited her into her memory where she soon found not just a pleasant thought but also God’s invitation to his eternal banquet. Yes, we were all busy, but we were all refreshed. Jesus’ burden is light, his yoke is easy. His service fits our souls and nourishes us.
God’s love initiates, invites and makes time. I was talking to a retired businessman the other day. He tends to go on for a while, if you know what I mean. Like most people, I hate cutting people off but I am busy, you know. I was beginning to look for a means of escape then he changed the subject.
He said that as a young man he was interested in making money. And he made a lot. Working for a Fortune 50 company he was the sales manager for a large territory. He lived out of his suitcase and whatever hotel was convenient that night. It was Christmas Eve and his flight had been delayed. He knew his family would be at the family Christmas Eve service, so he went directly there. His wife had saved a seat for him in the crowded room. He sat down. His eight year old son leaned against him and said, “I miss you Daddy” and cried.
By Easter he had resigned, moved back to his hometown, bought a business and began to devote significant time to his wife and children. “I knew all that stuff about priorities and that God created families with two parents, but it was not until that moment that I realized that I was not living what I thought I believed. I had trapped myself by the way I built my career, so I chose to start over. It was the second best decision I ever made. The first best was to marry my wife.
If you are saying, “I will do this when I have time God is likely saying to you, ‘Make time now.’” The sooner you make time for people the less disrupted your life will be when you realize that people are the wealth God gives you.
This week learn the following verse:
“Love others as God loves you.”
(John 13: 34b)
This key passage ties everything we will be talking about together. It is the basis for the practice I am teaching you.
Then pray this simple prayer each morning and each evening. Take about 5 minutes to listen for the answer and make notes. Then join a small group to explore what you are discovering.
The question? This is so simple.
“Lord, do you love me?”
Then hush up and allow the spirit to bring to your awareness various moments in the last day to two that show you the nature of that love. If you also join with others who are doing the same you will be amazed at what you see and the gratitude you experience for God’s loving!