Anzac sermon 2019 – the New Commandment
A sermon on Anzac Day (From the archives April 2013)
Readings: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; John 13:31-35
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come. 34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
I wonder if you remember this song:
We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord. (x2)
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,
By our Love,
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
We will work with each other,
We will work side by side. (x2)
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity
And save each man’s pride.
We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand. (x2)
And together we’ll spread the News
that God is in our land.
All praise to the Father from whom all things come…
copyright 1966 Peter Scholte
It was a great song. I’m not sure why songs written in the 1960s needed so many repeats! Maybe it was the 60s. People might have needed reminding of things. Who knows.
Ironically that song fell out of the book Living Praise because the owners withdrew the copyright. Not very loving – the new edition had a blank page with apologies instead of music.
So what has happened to the church after all these years?
So many times we sang this song from John 13.
So many sermons on this passage:
34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another? “Yeah right” is the classic kiwi approach!
WE DO GET IT RIGHT THOUGH
Today we remember those who gave their lives for their country – in whatever war you think of there have been terrible losses and sacrifice.
In the face of such devastation – many have shown the love of Christ in action in the face of terrible risk and threat.
- Like those who stuck up for the persecuted Jewish people – and hid them or rescued them.
- Those who refused to fight as pacifists – but served in amazing ways as peacemakers or medical staff
- Chaplains who were with their people on the front lines praying and ministering to the dying
- And many who nursed the wounded at great risk themselves. And the endless sacrifice of soldiers…
HOW NEW IS NEW?
What is new about this new commandment that Jesus gave?
Loving your neighbour wasn’t new – that was already in the Old Testament or Jewish Bible.
Listen and look again:
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
AS I HAVE LOVED YOU – is the key.
Love for Jesus was more than words – more than his teaching about love – but an action.
God so loved the world so much that he sent a text or telegram? I don’t think so.
God so Loved the world so much that he GAVE HIS ONLY SON. (John 3:16).
Jesus laid down his life for us. In fact, when he was preparing his followers for his death he said this (in the previous chapter in John):
23 Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.
27 ‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!’
You find that passage – especially verse 24 – on memorials and cenotaphs throughout the world (κενοτάφιον – empty tomb; kenos – “empty”, and taphos – tomb) – memorials that are empty because the people remembered are elsewhere – on Flanders field or some unknown place of terrible sadness and death.
…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Paul says something very similar to husbands in Ephesians 5:
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Sacrifice! A great reminder!
So as we give thanks for those who have sacrificed today – let’s commit ourselves to really love each other as Jesus loves us!
- It’s a tall order!
- It is possible – by His grace and through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit!
- It is essential for Christian witness – people know we follow Jesus because of our love
- It is not PERFECTION – real love is honest, not pretentious, and knows how to say sorry and move on when things go wrong!
But – you may be thinking – “my life is too hard – this command is too hard”. You say to me, maybe – “you don’t know the people that I have to deal with” or “you don’t know my family, pastor!”
Let’s dig a little deeper into this passage before we go home today. Go back to verse 31 of John 13:
It begins with this innocuous line: 31 When he was gone, Jesus said…
And of course context is everything.
The “he” is Judas. And Jesus loved Judas – he was one of his team.
And prior to that in John 13 Jesus had washed their feet – despite the protestations of Peter.
What is coming – for Jesus – is a betrayal and a denial – a cruel trial, flogging, a crown of thorns and an agonizing crucifixion.
It’s from that cross that Jesus forgives his tormentors.
This Jesus – who will need tremendous courage and strength – is the one who says here:
33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer.
In fact some translations have “Little children” here…
It’s a tender address. No parables here – no mysteries and riddles to crack.
They knew they had to love their neighbour (Leviticus 19:18).
It probably figured that they had to love each other.
Listen to the whole passage preceding the commandment again:
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come.
It would not feel like glorification for Jesus or his followers. It would feel like defeat.
Glorification is not about success, but obedience now in the short term – and reward in the long term.
We’re back to sacrifice are we not?
- Back to our soldiers who give up their lives for others.
- Heroes who rescue their friends on the battlefield.
One can understand the feelings of their comrades at this time.
There is a sense of enormous gratitude – when you are rescued, protected, or saved by someone. I’d like to know – we’d all like to know – that there is someone we can depend upon, someone who will defend us if we are attacked or in danger.
So too Jesus – who died for us. He saves us.
So too those tens of thousands of New Zealanders have given their lives in war or have served us and protected us. Love is shown in sacrifice.
We should remember them.