The Summer of Love

“Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus


“Remember, when I’m gone, I want you guys to love each other.” My dad used to say this to us, his children, all the time. And as the years went by and he got older he said it more and more often. In fact, he said it to me on the phone the week before he died. “Remember, when I’m gone, I want you guys to love each other.”

On the night before Jesus would die on the cross, He met with his disciples  before He was arrested. He had an intimate meal with them as family and established His personal, mysterious, presence with them from that day forward - and with us – as His family. Yet, before they left for the Garden of Gethsemane where He knew He would be arrested and go the way of the cross, where He knew it would be the beginning of Him not being with his followers visibly in the way He had been for three years, He looked at them and said, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer…A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ...

This Summer-“The Summer of Love” – we will focus on what this means in our lives. What does it mean –what does it look like – for God’s people to love one another? Jesus loves us? How does God, in His Word, flesh this out in our lives? Where can we rejoice in what God is doing among us? What do we need to begin to do brand new? How is God leading us to think differently or act differently or speak differently? Where is He calling us to soften our heart? Where is He calling us to receive a new heart and mind? Where is He calling us to grow in His love toward each other?  And what do we need to turn away from? That is, what sins of thought, word, and deed –in what we have done and not done - toward each other do we need to recognize, confess, and turn away from? And what do we need to be renewed in doing? Where do we need to be renewed in our minds? And how would God change our actions toward one another through this?  What does it mean, what does it look like, for us to love one another in such a way that people recognize us –identify us - through the way we love one another as disciples of Jesus? And what does it mean for us that we more and more love in this way?

In I Corinthians 13, it says what it seems to me every human being knows deep down in our souls: “Without love, we are nothing.” And while humanity so often frantically searches vainly in all the wrong places for love to fill up our souls, it is only truly found in Jesus. He IS love. He reveals love. He births us and grows us in true love. He has come so that we might have “life to the full” in the love that can only be known and lived in through Him.

In our time together this Summer, we would be changed by God to more and more live in this love toward one another….and through this, be empowered to live in love toward all. For it is true. “Without love, we are nothing.”

        “Remember, when I’m gone, I want you guys to love each other.”

                 “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

 Sunday, June 5th      Love Never Fails

I see it in the faces almost every time these words –from the book of First Corinthians in the Bible – are chosen to be read in a wedding. The stare that says that somehow while we like these words and we want these words to be true and we even desperately hope they can be true for this couple…and maybe even somehow also in our lives…. what we have experienced is that love does fail…again and again and again. But the Bible –God’s Word to us – says that love never fails, that we can have and live in this certain hope and reality. How is this possible?

Sunday, June 12th     Love is Patient (And It is About Community)

Jeff, my oldest son, was two years old when James was born. Almost as soon as James could move they would play together, with Jeff delighting in letting James maul him. It didn’t matter what James did, Jeff just laughed and loved him and put up with him, even when James started to scratch his face to such an extent that it looked like a cat had scratched him. But as the years went by I noticed a reciprocal relationship growing….where each one “put up” with the other in patience and love and longsuffering when it was needed. Tell me, how do you think their relationship is today? This is the gift that God would work in us as we live together in community – be patient with one another in love - as the people of God. 

 Sunday, June 19th   In the Brokenness, Love Reigns!

Stand Alone Father’s Day Celebration    (We Celebrate the Love of Fathers!)

Today is kind of a “stand alone” day. We step out of our series to remember and give thanks for God’s gift of fathers! Today, we unabashedly and joyfully celebrate fathers! We will talk about fathers. We will remember our Heavenly Father. We will have “manly” donuts. And we will give away not only a devotional to guide and strengthen our fathers as they look to live out their lives as Christian fathers, but also a manly coffee mug so every morning as they drink their coffee they can be reminded of who they are in Christ as Christian fathers!

But in those places of our brokenness where this celebration brings sorrow, anger, the pain of loss, and perhaps even tears - or even a bad conscience - God would touch us anew with Christ’s love that has overcome all brokenness and made us family in Him! He through Jesus would bring forgiveness, renewal, restoration, and a brand new beginning.   Let’s celebrate!

Sunday, June 26th      Love is Kind

Have you ever had the experience of having to take care of a business matter on the phone and the person was KIND to you? It really is not something we have grown to expect, is it? Or perhaps in a store? The other night with a very tight time schedule, I was waiting in a crowded quick check lane in a grocery store and the clerk who was running it, seeing that I only had 4 items, waved me forward and actually took me at an auxiliary cash register that he had. Again, he was really kind! And honestly, I did not expect it! Kindness is akin to grace, undeserved love. The Bible says that God is always kind towards us. And He calls us to be kind to one another.

Sunday, July 3rd    Freedom!          

Stand Alone 4th of July Celebration

I remember in Jr. High School going on a retreat at the Claremont Colleges entitled “Freedom through Slavery.” They gave us a little chain with a padlock and a key in it. We talked about how so many different things –even good things – can enslave us…and how true freedom is only found in Jesus. Today we remember and celebrate the freedom we enjoy as citizens of this nation. To our God be all praise and thanksgiving for this wonderful gift! But we also pause to ask what it means to live in the freedom that Jesus gives as servants to our nation and fellow citizens. 

Sunday, July 10th Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

My mom lived almost 90 years. She was as sharp as a tack until the day she died. She did her own bookwork preparing everything for her tax advisors –to the point where they said they really did not have much to do! She lived in the home I grew up in, taking care of everything that needed to be done. As a retired nurse, she could still, with great knowledge, converse on the subject with my son who had gotten his Bachelor’s degree in nursing. And she remembered everything!.... …except one thing. Whenever we would bring something up where we, as children, had fouled up, she honestly could not remember what we were talking about. It was as if she had forgiven us and wiped them from her brain. She only saw us as her dear children –and only the good stuff as she honestly did not remember the bad stuff. It’s a pretty good way to live with those whom you love. It is a gift that God would give us with one another.

Sunday, July 17th     Love is Not About “Me”

“Love is something to be given away, given away, given away…Oh yes, love is something to be given away and given away some more.” Do you remember this song? What it says is simply this, “love is not about ‘me’.” It is about giving it away to the other. Today we focus on what this looks like as we live together as the people of God, joining Jesus on His continuing mission in our world. This too is a gift for without love –and living in it – we are nothing!

Sunday, July 24th        Love Does Not Delight in Evil But Rejoices with the Truth!

Authentic. That’s a good word to describe my father. What you saw is who he was. He stood for the same things no matter what. I remember one time where a man who he worked with and who also went to our church engaged in behavior that was clearly wrong and immoral. It really “shook my dad up” as he honestly couldn’t understand why this man would do it and even went and talked to him, just the two of them. Jesus –His truth and His way of life – was joyfully and authentically real for my dad. It was who he was. And so it was just natural for him to authentically come alongside of others, including us, encouraging and exhorting us in our walk with Jesus. This is also a facet of us “loving one another as Jesus has loved us.” This is our focus today.

Sunday, July 31st    Love Always Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres

Sounds like the love of a parent, doesn’t it?...always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.. Wouldn’t it be great if someone loved us in this way? Wouldn’t be great if we could love another and maybe another and maybe another in this way? Just as we began with Jesus and never really left Jesus in this “Summer of Love,” we come full circle back to Jesus, marveling in this gift he gives us. “Love one another as I have loved you.”