Love Conquers All – May 6, 2018

Love Conquers All

A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

I John 5:1-6

May 6, 2018

Main Idea: God’s love conquers all.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

When I was a child, my favorite Disney movie was Robin Hood which tells that familiar story with animated animal characters.  Robin Hood and Maid Marian are foxes. Little John is a bear.  Friar Tuck is a badger, and Maid Marian’s lady in waiting is a chicken named Lady Cluck.  At a pivotal moment in the movie, Lady Cluck crows “LOVE CONQUERS ALL!!!”  And really, foxes and chickens living together in peace is a vision of the Peaceable Kingdom.  Lady Cluck was actually quoting the Roman poet Virgil who wrote this line of poetry in 37 BCE.  Virgil and Lady Cluck were talking about the power of romantic love and how those in love are inspired and empowered by their beloved.

We understand love in a broader and even more powerful sense.  Love is not just the power of attraction or attachment but it is the elemental sustaining power of all that is.  It is the nature of God.

In this season of Easter we have been exploring the First Letter of John which was written to a community struggling to discern how to be in relationship with Jesus, with God and with each other.  The letter profoundly and beautifully lays out how Jesus brings us, brings the world, together in love.  The first week we pondered our life together in Christ, declaring the importance of love and truth.  The next week we acknowledged that love is work and we affirmed that we are called to live out our belief in Jesus by loving one another.  Last week we celebrated that all love comes from God.  We love because God first loved us and we are empowered to share that love.  This week we will proclaim that love, God’s love, conquers all.

The Letters of John were written to a community in which there was conflict regarding the interpretation of the Gospel of John; specifically around the understanding of Jesus’ humanity and what that meant for the community’s life together.  Today there are many who question Jesus’ divinity.  They may think he was a profound moral and ethical teacher but they do not believe he was God.  In John’s community, there was the opposite issue. There were people who denied Jesus’ humanity.  They worshiped Christ as God but believed that he only appeared to be human.  They could not comprehend a God that would suffer.  This point is important to our understanding of today’s text because the connection of the human and divine is central to the idea of God’s love for us.  Jesus; who really lived, and really died, and really was resurrected, reveals that God is with us in all of our human experiences, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love.

John tells us that those who recognize the divine Christ is Jesus, the man, will also recognize that they, themselves, are born of God. Those who recognize the love between God and Jesus, who recognize the love God has for them, will also love the children of God.  This love for God and for others is the commandment that we obey. This love is not an abstract philosophical ideal, it is not a private experience or feeling.  This love is active, concrete and visible, made known in our relationships with others. This love is obedience to God.

John declares that this commandment to love is not burdensome because “whatever is born of God conquers the world”.  The love of God empowers us, emboldens us, and sustains us as we move through all the circumstances of life.

It is our faith which is the victory which conquers the world.  Now usually when we think of conquerers we think of military force.  The word conjures up war and strife but here John transforms this understanding.  “Faith is victory over the world not because believers wield the world’s power in a superior way, but because faith means confessing the Son of God and loving God’s children, the very things that [those against God] try to prevent…..Victory is found through faith in what Jesus is and has done: nothing else is needed.” (Brian Peterson, Because we know the love of God there is nothing in this world that can defeat us or separate us from God.  This is the victory that conquers the world.  Love conquers all.

The last verse of our text, “This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood.”(5:6)  seems tricky because it seems to bring up a new idea about the blood of Jesus. But in fact, this verse reaffirms the human aspect of Christ’s nature.  Jesus’ blood connects him to us. God Incarnate had blood coursing through his veins just like we do.  Jesus really was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River.  Jesus really spilled his blood and died on the cross and really was resurrected.  God really knows us and loves us just as we are.

For the past month we have pondered the nature and the power of God’s love.  We have declared our beliefs about love.  We have acknowledged the work of love.  We have rested in the truth of love.  And now, with faith, we see love conquer the world.

So, where does all of this love lead us?  How are our hearts and minds and lives opened to see love around us and to share love around us?   Love leads us beyond ourselves to consider the needs of others, to welcome the stranger, to protect the weak, and to challenge the strong.  Love allows us to give up fear.  As we learned last week, perfect love casts out fear (4:18).  And there is a lot of fear in our world that needs to be cast out.

 So, as we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to contemplate the body and blood of Christ, let us recommit ourselves to Christ’s service.  Let us embrace the power of love which gives life to us and to all of creation.

Let us pray,

Loving God, how can we thank you for your love for us?  How can we comprehend the magnitude of your love?  Our hearts beat with your love.  We are inspired and empowered by your love.  May we share your love with the world.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.