Acts 14:8-18

John 13:31-35

True Glory

Easter 5  May 19, 2019 

The Gospel passage before us today from John 13 is not a story of the risen Christ with His followers as some of the passages have been during these Sundays after Easter, but gives us a teaching that Christ gave to His disciples on the night before He was crucified.  This teaching, from the one who gave of Himself and calls on His followers to give of themselves, gives us the path to true glory. It is not, however, the path that many people would think to be the path to glory or choose for themselves to take  

As He sat with His disciples at the Last Supper Jesus said to His disciples

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” 

If I were to you what the purpose of our church should be, what would you say?

To preach repentance and salvation? To grow in membership?       

  1. Richard Niebuhr was a Theologian who, like most Theologians, and for that matter a lot of people, had a lot to say about what he believed to be the purpose of the Church. One thing he said was:

“The purpose of the church and its ministry is to work for the increase among humankind of the love of God and neighbor.”

            The purpose of the church is to work for the increase of a love of God and neighbor.

            Love of God and neighbor.

            How are we to structure our lives as Christians? Love. What is to be our main purpose as followers of Christ and His church in our community and in the world? Love. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, Jesus says.  Love.

But is it easy to have love as our purpose and goal of life, either as an individual Christian or as a Church, a community of believers in our risen Lord? No, it is not. The kind of love Jesus is calling on us to have in our lives can lead to giving of ourselves.  It can lead to sacrifice.  It led Jesus to the ultimate sacrifice, death on the cross, and it can lead us to sacrifice also.  But the cross was not defeat for Jesus.  The cross was not a final act. Death did not have the final word. For Jesus, giving of Himself on the cross led to victory and even to glory. 

Maybe you’re thinking at this point: Death — on a cross — is glory?

            It’s hard to understand, isn’t it? It makes very little sense to us. Death on a cross, even with resurrection, just does not seem very glorious to us, does it? How can Jesus see His death on a cross as glory? How can Jesus say that He is glorified, and that God is glorified, by His death on the cross?

            Here’s how: Jesus understood that true glory comes from God, and not from us. For Jesus, true glory was giving of Himself, even dying on the cross, and  rising again. For Jesus, true glory was love.

Love one another.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

“The purpose of the church and its ministry is to work for the increase among humankind of the love of God and neighbor.”

To work for the increase of the love of God and neighbor. This is our goal. This is our purpose. This is our true glory.

            How can we, as individuals and as a Church, achieve true glory? We can only do this by being truly loving people. We can only do this by being a truly loving Church.

            Our lesson from Acts for today gives us Paul and Barnabas almost being worshipped in Lystra. Some people would have taken that as a pretty glorious event. Some would love the attention. Worldly glory and fame were given to Paul and Barnabas, but they refused to let themselves be worshipped or glorified.  They understood that true glory is to only be given to God. 

            It would be so easy for us to do only the “popular” things that would make us popular and bring attention to us, but instead Jesus calls us to give of ourselves and love others.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

            “The purpose of the church and its ministry is to work for the increase among humankind of the love of God and neighbor.”

            Love. Love for God and neighbor. That is to be our true purpose. That is to be our true glory. As individual Christians and as a Church working in our community and the world to serve the risen Christ, we are to show the love and power of the risen Christ to the world. That is our true purpose. That is our true glory.

            A minister wrote of an experience he had while flying over the Grand Canyon with a friend. “Do you see that bright spot on the ground that follows the plane in its flight?” the friend asked. Looking down, the minister noticed that it did appear that a bright spot was following the plane. “Pilots call that the planes doxa — it’s glory.” the friend advised. “It’s really a reflection caused by the sun as it bounces off the plane.”

            Our glory and our purpose as individual Christians and as a Church is reflecting the love and power of the risen Christ to the world.

Our glory lies in loving each other and loving the world as Christ loved us and as Christ loved the world.

Our glory lies in acting on the love that Christ has for us and for the world.      To achieve our true purpose and true glory in the world we need actions that

reflect the glory of Christ to those around us.

To achieve our true purpose and true glory in the world we need actions that are faithful in showing God’s love to the community and the world.

To achieve our true purpose and true glory in the world we need actions that continue to reach out to those in need as Jesus did.

To achieve our true purpose and true glory in the world we need words and actions that speak and act in ways that show to each other and others that we are a community of faith that brings Christ’s glorious love to the world.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

            “The purpose of the church and its ministry is to work for the increase among humankind of the love of God and neighbor.”

            May that be said to be our purpose as a church and our lives as individual Christians.

            That is indeed true glory.  Amen.