In these days, do you feel like you are running out of energy, or motivation, or patience, or even love? Yes, the world has been a difficult place to be. Only couple weeks ago, the jury reach a verdict finding the former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for over 8 minutes. The verdict was one instance of justice, which alone does not make things right in the world. There was also Adam Toledo, a thirteen-year-old, who got killed by police in Chicago during the month of March. The body camera footage of Adam Toledo’s killing got released the same week Derek Chauvin was found guilty. Ma’Khia Bryant, a sixteen-year-old, was killed by police following a 911-call that she herself made. She was killed while we were waiting for the verdict of the Derek Chauvin case to be read. Daunte Wright was killed after being stopped by police. He was stopped for having an ornament hanging from his rearview mirror. He was also killed in the same week that the jury reaching a verdict on Derek Chauvin’s case, the body camera footage of Adam Toledo’s killing was released, and Ma’Khia Bryant was killed.
In response to recent killings, some of us might have felt overwhelmed. And it is also possible that some of us might not have felt emotions which we expected to feel. So much is happening around us. Some of us might be in a state of shock or disbelief. But lack of emotions is also a response, a response where we are simply overwhelmed and our bodies and hearts are not reacting in ways they might normally respond. We might feel overwhelmed to the point that the pandemic seems to have become the condition which we simply live with. It was once the major stressor in our lives, and it still may be for some of us. But for others, the shock and trauma of recent killings might have made the pandemic a kind of a background condition we have become used to.
There has also been Anti-Asian hatred crimes and killings exacerbated by the labeling and perception that the corona virus “is” a “Chinese virus.” Personally, I felt the wave of fear of Anti-Asian hatred as I provided support to an Asian American friend who was assaulted on a subway recently. As an Asian American woman myself, I identified with my friend as I listened to the traumatic experience of my friend being threatened of her safety as a man holding her phone hostage and coerced her not to get off the subway.
Yes, it is true that we might be exhausted. We might simply be tired of feeling afraid and angry. Of course, we are having a difficult time in this world in such a time as this, it is understandable. But at the same time, we will be feeling isolated and helpless, all the more so, if we are thinking of ourselves as being on our own and believing that we can do things, all things on our own! But the fact is, the reality is, that we are not on our own. If we are God’s children, baptized into God’s family, then we are like branches on a vine where Jesus is the true vine!
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15: 5)
As we look to God’s word this morning, let us become woken up by the Spirit of God to realize that we abide in God and God in us, and that we are to bear much fruit, and that apart from God, we can do nothing. So, how do we abide in Jesus? We abide in Jesus when love God, testify to God’s love, and love each other.
First, we abide in God by loving God who first loved us. To abide in Jesus is to abide in love because God is love. Those who love, abide in God.
16God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. (1 John 4:16)
Abiding in love is to know and to live in the reality of God’s love: To love God because God loves us, and to know that God sent his only Son that we might live through him.
19 We love because he first loved us. We know God loves in this. God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:19)
We love in response to God’s love because God first loved us. God reaches out to us. God pours out God’s love on us. God who is love demonstrates God’s love by sending God’s only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
Second, we love by testifying that God the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. We see in Acts that the Spirit of God said to Philip to go join the Eunuch. Philip was to join the Eunuch who was reading the scripture in order that he could be guided by Philip in understanding what he was reading.
29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. (Acts 8:29-31)
Those who have an understanding of the scripture can guide those who do not understand the good news of God’s love for us. We abide in Jesus and Jesus abides in us because we have been given God’s Spirit. Those who have been given the Spirit know this: that God has sent God’s Son as the Savior of the world. We abide in God by loving God. But also, God abides in us, when we confess that Jesus is the Son of God who came as the Savior of the world.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. (1 John 4:13-16)
Third, we love God and abide in God by loving one another.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
Our loving demonstrates that we know God. Our loving God in response to God first loving us, our loving ourselves in the way God loves us, our loving others as we love ourselves, our love demonstrates that God is love.
11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:11-13)
We can only love God because we have felt God’s love, because we know God first loved us, and because we taste and see and feel that God is love! We are commanded to love one another, to love one another as we are a family gathered by God’s love.
21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:21)
But how shall we love one another? We love one another in the way Jesus loves us. Jesus did not boast of his equality with God. But he emptied himself to take on flesh to be among us. He obeyed even to his death out of his love for us. Because God first loved us and demonstrates God’s love by sending God’s Son that we might live through him, we love when we live in this reality, when we share this reality we are living in, and love others by sharing this truth. To love one another means to share the love, to share why and how we love. We love because we are filled, because we are over filling with God’s love for us. This is how we love one another. We love through the love of God shown to each of us. That is the starting point of loving one another.
In Conclusion, concretely, what does this all mean for us? If we are a branch on the vine and Jesus is the vine, and if this is who we are, we can’t love if we are not on the vine. We will dry up and wither away. We have to bear fruit, meaning we love God, ourselves, and others. We spread God’s love. We shine as the light upon the world that is dark and bring truth as the salt of this world where truth has been diluted by hatred. We remain on the vine first and foremost. We have to be watered and pruned. We must grow as the branches on the vine. We have to be renewed in the spirit by the word of God, which to us is needed every day! We cannot be lazy about taking in God’s word. If you are lazy, and you don’t eat or drink, what would happen to you? You would get thirsty and hungry and eventually your body would wither away from dehydration and starvation!
Today what I want to emphasize is this, let us abide in Jesus by accepting and acknowledging God’s love for us. Accept yourself in the way God accepts you so that you can love yourself as God loves you. And as you love yourself, love others. This love isn’t one sided. Jesus told us to love one another. Love yourself and others and others have to love themselves and also love you too. But we love as God loved us. God first loved us. So, we first love others as well. Before we feel that we are loved by others, we love, we share the reality of God’s love for us, and we testify to the truth that God is love.
Let us pray. Dear God, you have first loved us. We love because you have shown your love through sending your Son Jesus the Christ so that by believing in him, we will not perish but live through him. Help us to feel your love. Help us to feel strengthened and renewed in your love. The world we live in is filled with hardship, suffering, and hatred, Lord. Protect us, O Lord, from being worn down by the world. Keep our hearts and eyes focused on your love. Let your love over fill us so that we can love ourselves and others. Let us love others first as you have first loved us. Let us love each other, especially our friends and family, and the communities we are a part of. Let us not be overcome with discouragement and hatred, but to overcome with love as we abide in you and you abide in us. Amen.