Midweek Lent 4: Loving God and Neighbor

Lessons: Psalm 31, Galatians 2:11-21, John 14:19-24

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Tonight’s two questions from the Catechism address faith and love. Love is what motivated Christ to die for us and make full payment for our sins. We wish to go to the Sacrament that we may learn to believe that Christ, out of great love, died for our sins. And, as we believe, teach, and confess, we wish to go to the Sacrament to learn from Christ to love God and love our neighbors.

      You can see the instinct to love in the animal kingdom—or at least animals put their own lives in jeopardy to protect their young. Experience shows the deep love parents have for their children. Parents are willing to go without meals just so their children can eat. The abortion industry tries to cover up the love mothers have for their children. They wish that love were not so. They even use the importance of a mother’s life to justify abortion. Many want to keep abortion legal in case the mother’s life is in danger. I’ve heard several cases where mothers were informed of the dangers they were facing in difficult pregnancies and were advised to abort their child. But the mothers would not. They would rather die bringing new life into the world than to kill their children. Most of these mothers survived, along with their children.

      It’s hard to come up with examples that top the love mothers have for their children. Yet, the Scriptures reveal to us a love that even goes much further than that. And that is the love God has for mankind. We were created in the image and likeness of God. We are the apple of God’s eye. He loves us unconditionally. He loves us so much that when Adam and Eve first rebelled against God and sinned, God the Father promised to send His Son into the world to pay for their sins and the sins of the whole world.

      On the night of His arrest and the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples, “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” John 15:12-14. To die for another is true love. And that was what Jesus was about to do not only for the sins of those who seem to be pretty good, but for all sins of all people of all time. The Scriptures declare, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:6-9).

      In love, Jesus endured the kangaroo courts before the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod. In love, Jesus bore the sins of the whole world in His Body. In love, Jesus suffered the wrath of God. In love, Jesus was willingly led as the Lamb to the slaughter. In love, Jesus was beaten and crucified. In love, Jesus died to give us the gift of eternal life.

      We often don’t want to do good things to those who seem ungrateful, take advantage of us, cannot repay us, or rub us the wrong way. Yet, this is what parents routinely do in love for their children. And more than that, this what God does for us, who are His children. He doesn’t play favorites, and He is no respecter of persons. This means He won’t look at some qualities in us to determine if we are going to receive forgiveness from Him or not. Instead, He already paid for our sins on the cross. He then grants us this forgiveness by grace through faith in Christ.

      We hear the Word and go to the Altar so that our faith may be sustained. Our faith is in Christ, who did this wondrous act of love us for us. He alone died in our place. He alone reconciles us to our Father in Heaven.

      Question: Why do you wish to go to the Sacrament?

      Answer: That I may learn to believe that Christ, out of great love, died for my sin, and also learn from Him to love God and my neighbor.

      We wish to go to the Sacrament to learn to believe that Christ in love died for my sin. We also go to the Sacrament to learn from Christ to love God and our neighbor.

      When we see the loving, sacrificial death Jesus made for us in the Sacrament, our love toward God grows. Our love comes from the love of God, for, as it is written, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

      And being recipients of God’s love, we also love our neighbors, knowing that they are also children of God whom Christ has redeemed. We first love them in Christ, which means we want them to have and know the love of Christ. We want them to hear of Christ’s bleeding, dying love. We want them to believe in Christ, as we do, for the salvation of their bodies and souls.

      Loving our neighbor means that we do good things to those who seem ungrateful, take advantage of us, cannot repay us, or rub us the wrong way. It is what Christ does. The Sacrament teaches us to love God and our neighbor.

      The sacrament also teaches us to trust in Christ who paid for our sins. This means that when we fail to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind or when we fail to love our neighbors as ourselves, we are invited to draw near as God’s beloved, repenting of our sins, and receiving the blessing of forgiveness offered in the Sacrament. We are invited guests to His table, where He strengthens our faith and showers us with His love. Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen