This Week’s Sermon

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Agapomen Allelus

By David Ward

1 John 4:7-21

A mouse looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package; what food might it contain? He was aghast to discover that it was a mousetrap! Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning, “There is a mouse trap in the house, there is a mouse trap in the house.” The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell you this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me; I can’t be bothered.”

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mouse trap in the house.”

“I am so very sorry Mr. Mouse,” sympathized the pig, “but there is nothing I can think of to do about it. Surely someone else will step in to help.”

The mouse turned to the cow, who replied, “Like wow, Mr. Mouse, a mouse trap; am I in grave danger, Duh?” So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital.  She returned home with a fever. Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.

His wife’s sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.  The farmer’s wife did not get well, in fact, she died, and so many people came for her funeral the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide meat for all of them to eat.

So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think that it does not concern you, remember that when the least of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

G.K. Chesterton said “All [people] matter. You matter. I matter. It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe.”

To dwell above with saints we love, that will be grace and glory–
To live below with saints we know … that’s another story!

John repeats Jesus’ command to “love one another.” He mentions love 27 times in this passage! How is that possible? How is it possible to love those who aren’t lovable? How is it possible to love those who don’t like you? How is it possible to love those who don’t want to be loved?

God is the source of love-in fact, God is love! (7-8)  God is love.  Here, John makes the third of his great pronouncements about God. “God is spirit,” “God is light,” and now “God is love.”  More than simply “loving,” God’s essence is love.  It means God is personal. It gives warmth to His light. It fills His glory with life which brings it near to our hearts.  Non-Christian thinking of God as an impersonal force rather than a personal Being.  But love is not God.  John’s statements cannot be divorced from the other two tests of eternal life-obedience to God’s commands and correct views about Christ. The Greek grammar prohibits the reversal of “God is love”-i.e. one cannot say, “love is God.”  But God hasn’t kept His love just among the members of the Trinity. No,  God has lavished His love on us (9-11)  The love of God is the love of Christ. When we say that, we’ve said it all.

Jack Kelley, foreign affairs editor for USA Today, tells this story:

We were in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, during a famine. It was so bad we walked into one village and everybody was dead. There is a stench of death that gets into your hair, gets onto your skin, gets onto your clothes, and you can’t wash it off.

We saw this little boy. You could tell he had worms and was malnourished; his stomach was protruding. When a child is extremely malnourished, the hair turns a reddish color, and the skin becomes crinkled as though he’s 100 years old.

Our photographer had a grapefruit, which he gave to the boy. The boy was so weak he didn’t have the strength to hold the grapefruit, so we cut it in half and gave it to him. He picked it up, looked at us as if to say thanks, and began to walk back towards his village.

We walked behind him in a way that he couldn’t see us. When he entered the village, there on the ground was a little boy who I thought was dead. His eyes were completely glazed over. It turned out that this was his younger brother. The older brother kneeled down next to his younger brother, bit off a piece of the grapefruit, and chewed it. Then he opened up his younger brother’s mouth, put the grapefruit in, and worked his brother’s jaw up and down. We learned that the older brother had been doing that for the younger brother for two weeks.

A couple days later the older brother died of malnutrition, and the younger brother lived. I remember driving home that night thinking what Jesus meant when he said, “There is no greater love than to lay down our life for somebody else.”

There once was a carpenter who didn’t overcharge for his work
Once there was a physician who healed the sick for free
Once there was a man who fed people at no charge…
And you know what they did to Him?
They crucified Him!

There will be times as a Christ follower that you’ll feel unappreciated, and taken for granted. You’ll not feel loved as you should be.  When that happens you should love others anyway. BUT HOW?  Because God is love and because God has loved us, we have God’s love to give.

Think of Christmas lights wired in series. First the electricity comes into the wire, then to the bulb and through its filament. Finally it goes back into the line, on to the next bulb, and so on through the entire chain of lights. As it flows out not only into each of those lights but out of each of those lights, the entire circuit is completed, and the string of lights is bright. If there’s a light that’s loose, or a filament that’s broken, then it receives the electricity but doesn’t pass it on to others.

In a sense, God has wired us like these Christmas lights. He has wired us to receive His love, and He has also wired us to pass it along to others. We have God’s love to give.

When we love, we prove that we have God’s love to give (12-21)  We show that we belong to God (12-16)  Where God is, love is. If God dwells in a person, love dwells there, for God is love. By the same logic, if love dwells in a person, God must dwell there (12, 16)  The Holy Spirit proves God lives in us (13)  The testimony of Christ shows God lives in us (14-15)

Jewish legend: Time before time, when the world was young, two brothers shared a field and a mill, each night dividing the grain they had ground together during the day. One brother lived alone; the other had a wife and a large family.

Now, the single brother thought to himself one day, “It isn’t fair that we divide the grain evenly. I have only myself to care for, but my brother has children to feed.” So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary to see that he was never without.

But the married brother said to himself one day, “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one. What will he do when he’s old?” So every night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary. As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning.

Then one night they met each other halfway between their two houses. They suddenly realized what had been happening and embraced each other in love. The legend is that God witnessed their meeting and proclaimed, “This is a holy place-a place of love-and here it is that my temple shall be built.” So it was. The First Temple is said to have been constructed on that very site.

We overcome fear of judgment (17-18)  Aristotle: “No one loves the man whom he fears.”  In your relationship with God, when has perfect fear cast out love? When has God’s love cast out fear?  We follow God’s greatest command (19-20)

Saint Jerome recounts that Saint John the Evangelist, living in Ephesus in his extreme old age, would be carried with difficulty into the church by his disciples. He had no strength for lengthy exhortation, but could only say, “agapomen allelus” (“let us love one another”). At length, the disciples and church members who were there, wearied by the repetition, asked, “Master, why do you always say this?” He replied “Because it is the Lord’s command and if that alone is done, it suffices.”

“John, what do you say?” “Agapomen Allelus”  Some baptize only adults while others baptize children–what do you say? (Let us love one another)  Some speak in tongues while others do not–what do you say? (Let us love one another)  Some who drink wine while others abstain–what do you say? (Let us love one another)  Some young leaders have new ideas while others want to preserve our tradition–what do you say? (Let us love one another)  A marriage is failing & people in the church are taking sides–what do you say?   People who come but give no money: what should we do about it?  Someone hurt me and I want to hurt them back–what do you say?

We have God’s love to give.  Having said all this, I think convention would have me say, “All right now. Who are you going to love this week?” Probably I’m supposed to give you some suggestions on how to do that, and you’re supposed to remember them. But there’s this nagging whisper inside of us that says, “I’ve tried that. And I’ll tell you, I can’t do it, and I don’t need the guilt.” So I’ll tell you what. Don’t even bother trying. Don’t even try it, because it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work to love people begrudgingly, to love when we don’t have God’s love inside us. If we’re on empty, we don’t feel like we have God’s love to give. Instead, I suggest you just get loved up by God! Read the NT just looking for God’s great love for you, and memorize some verses that you find. Pray, thanking God for the love He has given you. No measuring up, no pity party-just tell Him, “thank you Lord for loving me.” Simply let God love you. Let His love fill you up so that it spills out to other people in your life. Open it up and let it flow. Let it flow and love one another.

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