scripture this morning comes from the gospel of John, the 14th chapter,
verses 15 through 21. Jesus says:
15 If you love me,
you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he
will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the
Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither
sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and
he will be in you.
18 I will not leave
you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will
no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will
live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in
me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are
those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love them and reveal myself to them.
a scene in Fiddler on the Roof that occurred to me as I was preparing
this, that I thought would make a wonderful introduction this
morning. And I thought about going out and getting the movie to
play that, and then it dawned on me that my daughter was in Fiddler on
the Roof last year, many of you went to that performance, thank you very
much. So we naturally have a copy of it. So instead of the
professional, really nice Hollywood version, what I have is the Sheldon
Theater version. And I think that endears it all the more, the
wonderful performance of these high school students.
particular scene is not the one Paulina was in, but is when Tevye asks
his wife Golde if she loves him.
of the scene played on the wall -- lyrics to the song "Do You Love
Me?" are reprinted below]
"Golde, I have decided to give Perchik permission to become
engaged to our daughter, Hodel."
"What??? He's poor! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!"
"He's a good man, Golde.
I like him. And what's more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves
So what can we do?
It's a new world... A new world. Love. Golde..."
Do you love me?
Do I what?
Do you love me?
Do I love you?
With our daughters getting married
And this trouble in the town
You're upset, you're worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it's indigestion
"Golde I'm asking you a question..."
Do you love me?
You're a fool
But do you love me?
Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?
Golde, The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared
I was shy
I was nervous
So was I
But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?
I'm your wife
But do you love me?
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?
Then you love me?
I suppose I do
And I suppose I love you too
It change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know
doesn't that just warm the cockles of your heart? Maybe it's just
because I'm a sentimental type, or maybe it's because Dad & Dorothy
are here, and they were here last year to see that, and came again today
to see Sugar. Maybe it's because this summer will be 25 years that
Judy and I will be married. I don't know, for all of these
reasons, I thought it was a great way to start today.
scene illustrates the first point that I want to make. That love
is best expressed not in sentimental words and cards and flowers,
although those things are nice, but in the concrete acts of devotion
done in love. 25 years of washing clothes and cooking meals and
cleaning house. A little chocolate along the way always helps.
best way to show your spouse, I have learned, that you love him or her
is not by taking her or him to the movie, or dinner, as nice as that may
be but it's doing those little things for the other person.
Washing the dishes when it's not your turn. Doing the laundry or
mowing the lawn or washing the car. It's in those little
sacrificial acts that we do for someone else that it's the true sign of
normally I would say that it's not something you can buy either, with
gifts. But then my wife surprised me one year on my birthday --
gave me a gift that blew me away. Golf clubs. You have to
know that Judy HATES golf -- she hates it when I go golfing. She
hates it when we watch golf. She just hates everything about
it. And then for her to give me golf clubs -- I knew she loved me.
can all name ways to demonstrate the ways that we show love for one
another, for those people that are close to us and important to
us. But how do you show love for someone you do not even
know? Or someone who has long been dead? How do we show love
for George Washington, or Martin Luther, or Mother Teresa, or Joan of
Bultmann, the great German biblical scholar of the early 20th century
said that the key question in this text from the gospel of John is
"can the disciples still love Jesus after he is gone? And
more importantly, can those who never met Jesus love him at all?
And if so, how?"
the issue that John's gospel is addressing. And the answer is
pretty clear, isn't it? If you want to show your love for Jesus,
you won't build a monument to him. Remember, Peter tried to do
that on the mountain at the transfiguration. You won't do it by
drawing your weapons and fighting for him -- Peter tried to do that too,
in the garden, remember when they came to arrest Jesus. And it
won't be by holding on to Jesus, as Mary tried to do after the
rather by keeping the commands of Jesus. Now at first glance that
sounds rather moralistic, as if loving Jesus can be done by keeping a
list of do's and don'ts. And I have to be perfectly honest with
you -- whenever anyone pulls out their list and says to me "this is
what it means to be a Christian -- 1, 2, 3, 4 5", you know, check
all these things off and then you're a Christian. My advice to you
when that happens is: run. Get away as fast as you can.
had a wedding a few weeks ago in which I did the ceremony, and
afterwards one of the guests came up to me and said "You know you
left out something". I said, really, what did I leave
out? "You left out that part about the wife obeying the
husband". Oh, really? You don't know me very well, do
you?! You don't know this couple very well either, do you -- first
of all, they were in their 70s. If I had suggested that I would
have been laughed out of the room. Secondly, I just have this
negative reaction whenever I'm told that I have to obey this or
that. Just ask my father, he'll tell you, it was a problem my
whole childhood J.
a parent, I don't expect my children to obey me because they love me, I
expect them to obey me because I'm their father. They know the
consequences if they don't. But you see, at a certain age, it no
longer works. In my kids case, it might be 35 or 40, and they can
do whatever they want J.
But in mature relationships, obedience and love just don't go together
very well, do they? We do something for the other person because
we love them, not because we feel obligated.
thus I have a very strong aversion to those churches and religions that
emphasize obedience to religious authority and adherence to a strict
year, Sheldon High School did Fiddler on the Roof, that we just saw, a
play that everyone knows and loves, and they did it very well,
wonderful, wonderful production. And this year they chose
Sugar. Sugar is based on the movie "Some Like it Hot",
with Marilyn Monroe. A delightful story. There was a little
controversy around it, you may recall -- it hit the paper, made the
news. Because, Nancy Anderson, who is their musical director, our
choir director, had advised the Principal that he needed to be aware
that there were a couple of issues that might create a little bit of a
problem. So if any parents complained, she just wanted to let him
know, to be advised. There's card playing (heaven forbid!),
there's a little bit of alcohol drinking (there's more in Fiddler on the
Roof), there's some violence, guns, you know we get all uneasy with that
in schools. And not to mention the fact there are two men who
dress up like women through half of the play. So she made them
aware and that finally worked its way up into the district office and
after they had selected the cast, were all ready to go, word came down
'no, you can't do that'. Can't do that play, it's not appropriate
in our high school.
the reaction of the parents -- folks became very upset. Not over
the selection of the play, they became upset at the district's attempt
to censor the play. As if our children are not mature enough to
handle these kinds of themes. And there was a meeting with the
principal and all kinds people shared, and a compromise was agreed to,
modifications were going to be made, but because of the news, the
publisher found out about it they said "No, you either do the play
as it was written or you don't do it at all". And so that's
what they're doing. Judy and I went Friday night -- loved it,
delightful, slapstick, there is a scene in there of the gangster, a
tap-dancing gangster, his death scene, that is not to be missed. I
just happen to have two tickets right here for the highest bidder.
the way, I have to tell you I have never been more proud to be a parent
in a public school. Our schools do such a fine job, Nancy does an
point is not that we shouldn't have moral codes that we expect our
schools and students to live by, but that they have their limits.
And that there is a higher principle, a higher code. Jesus says in
this text " . . if you love me, you will keep my
commandments". So I ask you, what are those commandments?
know them. Golden Rule -- do unto others as you'd have them do
unto you. Isn't that just another expression of love? The
parable of the judgment -- remember, the sheep and the goats, and he
says I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me, when
you do it to the least of these you have done it to me. What is
that but an expression of love? The parable of the Good Samaritan
-- that person wounded, lying in the ditch, and the religious
authorities that walk on by, and that half no-good Samaritan is the one
who helps him, binds up his wounds, and what is that if not an act of
neighborly love? These are the commands of Jesus.
if you ask me 'what about the 10 commandments?', well what about
them? Read your New Testament. Remember when Jesus talks
about the 10 commandments? There is that rich politician who comes
to Jesus, probably the one who paid to put up the monument on the
courthouse lawn, who comes and says "what must I do to inherit
eternal life? Keep the commandments? I've done those, heck I
even paid for that monument, you see, check that off my
list". And Jesus says: 'you lack one thing, go and sell
all that you have and give it to the poor and come and follow me'.
Now that's a tough commandment. But is not that just the most
radical expression of love?
on another occasion, when he was asked which is the greatest
commandment, Jesus has his opportunity -- is it 1, 3, and 5? No,
he bypasses all 10 and he says instead: "Love the Lord your
God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as
yourself". That sums up all the rest.
then in John's gospel, you know how many commandments there are?
One. One commandment Jesus gives you. Comes before this
text, in chapter 13 verse 34. Comes after this text, chapter 15
verse 12. One commandment, repeated twice, both before and after,
to make sure we get the point: "This is the new commandment I
give you", says Jesus, "that you love one another as I have
that ought to be easy, don't have to remember 10, don't have to remember
2, just have to remember 1. Until we remember where that one
command took Jesus.
see love goes beyond the 10 commandments. It goes beyond
duty. It goes beyond obligation. It goes beyond all minimum
expectations. Which is why Jesus taught us not to just love our
friends but to love our enemies. To turn the other cheek. To
go the extra mile. Christian faith is not about living by moral
codes, it's about living by one code. And that's why following
Jesus does not come with any instruction book that gives you clear
answers for every situation. We have but one law, the law of
love. And it is up to us to figure out what that means in our
was a wonderful story that came out of the Vietnam war, published by
Reader's Digest, and they said they can't verify the story, we don't
know if it actually happened, but there's a sense in which we all know
it's true. The story was of a village that got hit by artillery
fire, collateral damage, unintended innocent victims. A medical
team arrived, an American doctor and nurse discovered an orphanage had
taken a direct hit, the missionaries that led the orphanage had been
killed. One little girl, very severely wounded, and they quickly
ascertained that if she did not receive a blood transfusion right away
she would also die. The doctors spoke a little bit of Vietnamese,
the nurse spoke a little bit of French, and between the two of them and
a lot of hand motions they were able to get the survivors together and
to explain to them they needed someone who would volunteer to donate
their blood so the little girl could live. One little hand went
up, and went back down. Came back up, and they quickly went to him
and learned the little boy's name, laid him down on a gurney and thanked
him for being so brave. Tested the blood and sure enough it was of
the right type. Began to draw some out and the little boy began to
whimper. And they said 'is anything wrong, does it hurt?'
No, it didn't hurt. Continued for awhile and he began to
sob. They tried to console him but they couldn't figure out what
was wrong. Pretty soon he began to cry uncontrollably. They
knew something terrible was wrong. Just then a Vietnamese nurse
arrived on the scene, who spoke pretty good English, and they brought
her to the little boy and she immediately spoke to him. They
exchanged back & forth several times and pretty soon the sobbing
began to quiet down. He asked her one last question and she nodded
her head and smiled. And he too smiled, and he stopped
turned to the Americans and said 'he misunderstood you. He thought
he was giving ALL of his blood, so the little girl could live, and that
he was going to die'. And they said, 'but why would he do
that?!' And so the nurse repeated the question to the little boy,
and he answered back: "Because", he said, "she is
love one another as Jesus loved those around him, as Jesus loved his
disciples, as Jesus loved the people on the street, as Jesus loved his
enemies. To love one another. This is love's command.