Gaining Vision: Whom shall we love? April 19, 2015

Leviticus 19:9-18, 31-37 John 13:1-17, 31b-35

This is the time for this church to gain a vision for the future. Since I have been leading this church, we have not had a time of pursuing a vision from God. Some of us here may not remember a time that this church has discovered a vision from God for us. If we cannot remember, and we have not gained a vision from God in my first 3 ½ years here, then it must be time that we do.

Through this process we will review where this church has come from. We need to know our history. Then we will consider where we are presently. We will proceed to ask God for a vision, or dare I say, a prophecy, about how we are to live as a church.

The New American Standard version of the Bible has Proverbs 29:18 read like this: “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.”

The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible has Proverbs 29:18 read:
“Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.”

Yes, following a vision from God for this church will require us to restrain ourselves so that the vision can become true in the life of this church. The words for the vision may come from an unknown source, like someone who is not a recognized leader of the church. The idea for the vision may come from a youth, or even someone who is retired. Once we hear the vision from God, then we all are going to work together to live the vision.

We have not heard the idea that we are pursuing a mission for this church. That is because we already have a mission. The mission for this church, and every United Methodist church, is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline, Paragraph 120). Therefore the vision will be one that encourages us to be about the mission of making disciples. What does not aid the vision, then we would stop. We would add the necessary ministries that would help develop disciples of Jesus Christ.

We are starting this pursuit of a vision by asking: “Whom shall we love?” Thankfully, there are plenty of Bible verses that help us read about love. As we look closer at two of them, I believe they will help us see whom we are to love.

A. Love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:9-18)
+++1. Because God is our Lord, we make sure the poor and aliens have some food
+++2. Because of the Lord, we deal well with other people
+++3. Because we fear God, we treat the deaf and the blind
+++4. Because of the Lord, we seek justice for the rich and for the poor
+++5. Because of the Lord, we treat and talk to our families well
+++6. The overarching idea here is that we love our neighbors. Yes, sometimes the poor get on our nerves, asking for food and other items. Yes, sometimes people mistakes and take advantage of us. Yes, sometimes we forget about the deaf and the blind. Yes, we get upset when the rich seem to get off scott-free in the legal arena. Yes, our families mistreat us and they do hold grudges, sometimes for generations. But we also do these things on occasion. We do not love our neighbors. That doesn’t mean we have to remain the way we are. I have told my siblings a number of times, “Life is too short.” By that I mean we can only get along and we need not let anything get between us. For one day we might not have the chance to speak or be with our relatives, or our neighbors. So, we are to love our neighbors. This sounds fairly cut and dry. That is until we continue reading in Leviticus 19. Whom shall we love?

B. Love the alien as yourself (Leviticus 19:31-27)
+++1. Because God is our Lord, we need not pursue the use of mediums or wizards
+++2. Because we fear the Lord, we make way for the aged
+++3. Because God is our Lord, we love the aliens as we love ourselves
++++++– The church treats aliens/immigrants in a different way than the government or society does
++++++– Maybe we don’t love ourselves, so we cannot love the aliens/immigrants
++++++– How can we love ourselves? Know what the Lord has done for us, thereby knowing we are loved by God. Because of that love, we can love ourselves, and love the aliens
+++4. Because God has given us these instructions, we do business with honest weights and scales
+++5. I spoke with a man who was born in this area. He moved away for several decades. Then he moved back to the area. He has been back in Carroll County, but he still feels like a “foreigner.” People know who his dad was. But there is still a distance between those who have never left this place and those who move here. What about those who don’t speak or look like us? The writer of Leviticus tells us to treat the immigrants like any other citizen. Why would we want to do this? Because we were once separated from God, and God delivered us. Surely, God can deliver the immigrants in our midst. Maybe we are not ready to give our love to the immigrants. Maybe we can start a little bit closer to where we are.

C. Love one another (John 13)
+++1. Jesus is getting ready for his time in Jerusalem
+++2. Jesus is getting his disciples ready for the time after Jesus rises from the grave
+++3. Jesus, the master and the Lord, washed his disciples feet!
+++4. Baptism is one thing, but being so close to Jesus, in a relationship with him is another
+++5. Foot washing was a sign of hospitality – a servant washed your feet when you entered a home in which you were welcomed
+++6. If Jesus washed his disciples feet, then his disciples washed the feet of each other
+++7. For us to be part of the church, we are to love one another
+++8. That is how our neighbors and the aliens know that follow Jesus. Maybe before we start loving our neighbors and the aliens, we can start loving each other. We are not going to gossip about each other. We are not going to cheat each other as we do business. We are not going to hold grudges against each other. Our life on this planet is too short for any of that activity. For us to live as disciples of Jesus, then we are to love one another. How did Jesus love his disciples? He loved them until the end. That is what we read in 13:1. Jesus even loved the one who betrayed him! We are not like Jesus in knowing who will betray us. But we love even the Judas’ among us.

To gain a vision from God, we examine whom we shall love. It turns out that loving one another in the church is important. That is what attracts people to the church, the love we have for each other. So, we start loving those who are part of this church.

We do not forget our neighbors. The neighbors may have done us wrong. Yet, we do not treat them the same way. Our God wants us to love our neighbors. How else are our neighbors going to learn about Jesus?

We are to love the aliens, the immigrants. We do not what their lives were like before they got here, to this community. As God’s people in this community, we do not want them to have as a bad a time as they had before they got to our community. Again, how else will the immigrants among us know about our love for Jesus, if we don’t love them?

So what does this mean for you? We have been holding a grudge against someone. We have wronged someone in some business transaction. We have mistreated people. This week, even this day, let go of the grudge. This week, even this day, make that business transaction right. This week, even this day, start treating your neighbors, even the immigrants, as you have been treated by God.

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