Another Love Chapter — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: 1 John 4.7-16
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. 

1 Corinthians 13.13
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Reflection: Another Love Chapter — Love of Advent
By John Tillman

If asked about the Bible’s “Love Chapter”, most probably think of 1 Corinthians 13. Paul’s poem on love is well known for its beauty even outside of Christianity. I read it in literature classes. But there is another love chapter. 1 John 4 is the Apostle John’s.

What these chapters have in common is not sentimentality. They explore the serious implications of sound theology. Paul praises love as greater than any miraculous gift of the Spirit. John identifies love as the surest marker of one who belongs to God and knows God.

This entire chapter of John is about testing. After challenging his readers to “test the Spirits” by whether they testify to Christ’s full, bodily incarnation, John gives us a test for ourselves and for others: Are we loving? If we are not, John says, we do “not know God.”

Why is love the key John uses to open a door to God’s nature? Why does John choose love as the litmus test of identity for the people of God? Shouldn’t God’s nature be about power, glory, and honor? Shouldn’t Christian identity center on purity, holiness, or doctrinal alignment? 

It’s not that John is unconcerned about God’s glory or about doctrine. John’s gospel goes to greater lengths than others to emphasize the glorious divinity of Christ. John is also the loudest voice against gnosticim in scripture, defending the full and complete humanity of Jesus.

John’s concern is that our doctrines lead to actions that either testify to God’s glory or not. Right belief is best tested by right actions. Orthodoxy must lead to orthopraxy. If we don’t live in love, we don’t live in God. If we won’t love those we can see, our claim to love God whom we have not seen is in doubt.

John, who saw and touched Jesus (1 John 1.1), the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1.15), tells us that “in this world we are like Jesus.” One purpose of Christ’s advent was to show what God is like. The Holy Spirit’s advent in our hearts shares that purpose. If we don’t love, we are quenching the Spirit, misrepresenting God, and distorting his image.

Let us not just anticipate Jesus’ love for us this Advent, but proclaim it to others. Let Advent be an evangelistic imperative to invite others to see and experience the love of God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
Keep me, Lord, as the apple of your eye and carry me under the shadow of your wings.

Today’s Readings
Esther 7 (Listen 2:08)
1 John 4 (Listen 2:58)

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What We Do In Remembrance

Scripture Focus: 1 John 4.19-21
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Reflection: What We Do In Remembrance
By John Tillman 

Holidays in a time of pandemic are strange, aren’t they?

Most have gone through Lent and now Eastertide without gathering or celebrating as normal, and now on Memorial Day in the United States, we attempt to remember those who gave their lives in active military service without the traditional large gatherings, family cookouts, and other, more formal solemnities. 

While military service members who have died are the focus of this day, it is difficult for our minds not to turn to the many doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who are not active military members, but have died fighting a very real war against a very real virus. 

Medical personnel have been enduring stresses, schedules, and dangers similar to those they would experience in wartime. Their stresses and dangers are real and are exacerbated by the war-like tenor of public and political grandstanding by so many political leaders, and unfortunately some faith leaders, on the issues surrounding the crisis. 

So, on this Memorial Day let us remember that in word and in deed we are charged, commanded, and compelled by the Holy Spirit of God to enact and speak love in tangible ways to those around us. 

May we do so in remembrance of Jesus. We are called to strip ourselves of pride and clothe ourselves for service in ways that others deem unseemly or demeaning. We are charged to take up our cross and clothe ourselves not in “rights” but in righteousness.  

We do this not because we are loving people, but because He is a loving God. We love because of him (1 John 4.19) and hate in spite of him. If we do not or will not show love to others, we are in rebellion against God’s Holy Spirit (1 John 4.20) and are hardening our hearts, becoming more and more insensitive to His leading and to needs around us.

On this day, and on all the days to come, may we allow the Holy Spirit to re-soften our hearts toward his leading and toward our neighbors’ needs. May we be led toward loving actions and may loving and truthful words be placed on our tongues and on our keyboards. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 26 (Listen – 2:58)
1 John 4 (Listen – 2:58)

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Jesus, he turned everything upside down…Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet, even Judas’…

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Whether in politics or in the church, so many of our leaders lead in the opposite way that Jesus described to his disciples, each lording their power over one another.

Who Are You Waiting For? :: Hope of Advent

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Scripture Focus: 1 John 4.16-17, 20
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus…Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Reflection: Who Are You Waiting For?
By John Tillman

Back in the days when one could go to the gate and meet friends as they came off of the plane, I was a part of a group that played a joke on a friend of ours returning on a flight. We gathered with a simple sign to hold as we awaited our friend and arrived at the gate early enough that we were the first ones waiting.

Then, as now, people coming off of a plane didn’t normally hesitate—they would hustle off to baggage claim or the exits. But on that day as people began to stream off of the plane, they saw our sign. A few simply chuckled and moved on, but some, due to curiosity, seemed to find all manner of reasons to stand around the gate chatting. They were interested to see who was getting off of the plane.

The crowd grew as our friend was one of the last people to exit the plane. As the tension mounted, we almost abandoned our plan. But when our friend finally appeared, we cheered loudly and we proudly held our sign up: “Congratulations! Not Guilty!”

I don’t know if any of those who witnessed our prank realized it was a joke. They may have been curious about whether they would recognize the face getting off the plane from the news. But I do know they were interested in who was coming because of how we were waiting.

Are people interested in the Christ you are waiting for? Maybe that has to do with how you are waiting? A child waiting for a parent to come home and administer a punishment behaves differently than one waiting for a parent to come home and ease a broken heart. A child waiting for a parent to bring home test results behaves differently than one waiting for a parent to bring home a present.

What you do while you wait, tells people who you are waiting for and what you think about them. What do people see when they see us waiting for Christ? What does that make them assume about Christ’s identity?

What, or who, are you waiting for?

May we wait for Christ expectantly, with energetic hope.
May we prepare the way for Christ by doing what we would expect him to do on behalf of others. 
May we prepare the way for Christ by being the kind of servant that Christ lived as when he was among us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 5=6:11 (Listen -9:57) 
1 John 4 (Listen -2:58)

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Christ’s Advent will be revealing in our lives. Too often what we hope for condemns us…Let go of the sinful things you hope for. Give them up to him

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