“All in the Name of LOVE”

Posted By Beckie Sweet on Apr 14, 2024 | 0 comments

April 14, 2024 ~ Third Sunday of Easter

Rev. Beckie Sweet


In 1932 as out-of-work jazz musician, Thomas Dorsey, almost gave up on life.  He was unable to eke out a living, he had exhausted all possible partnerships with other musicians, and he was on the brink of complete disbelief ~ in God and in himself.  But God’s still small voice called him back to life.  Dorsey decided he would SING instead of sorrowing, he would LOVE instead of hate, he would TRUST instead of disbelieve.  His hymn sings:


Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand.

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.  Through the storm,

through the night, Lead me on to the light;

Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home.


Today we hear Luke’s account of an appearance of the Risen Christ, which is notably different from John’s account.  According to Luke, just after dawn, the women burst in to the room where the disciples were gathered.  “He wasn’t there, he is risen!” they shouted.  The women’s excitement sent the hiding disciples reeling.  They just could not make cognitive sense of it all.  It was hard enough to believe that Jesus was gone.  How could they believe that he was here again?  Then, again according to Luke, two of the disciples returned from Emmaus.  “We saw him.  We recognized him when he broke the bread and gave it to us.  How our hearts burned within us as he spoke!”  They were still talking about this experience when Jesus slipped in, saying, “Peace be with you.”

How different the Resurrection appearances are from the stories of Jesus’ birth.  When Jesus was born, people went looking for him: the shepherds, the Wise Ones, Herod’s officials.  Now, as the Risen Christ, Jesus comes to those needing his reassuring presence.  He comes and stands among them in the midst of their darkness and doubt, their grief and confusion, and he still does.

In her book, Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott describes a time when Jesus came to her.  Steeped in the drug culture of the 1960’s, Lamott chronicles her spiritual journey in language that is raw and real, something that made this oft-recommended book challenging for me to read!  In one scene, Anne had just had an abortion.  Very drunk, she lies down, shaky and scared.  She writes, “After a while, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner …  The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there – of course there wasn’t.  But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus.  I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with.”  And Jesus stays with her through that troubling night.

Jesus comes to us in the midst of real life, when we need him most.  He comes to the disciples in the midst of their grief, to a musician who has all but given up on faith and life, and to woman who is feeling alone and afraid.  Jesus meets us where we are and gives us what we need to believe.  What exactly does it mean to believe?  Is it a matter of resolving all of the questions we carry around in our heads?  It seems to me that believing is more than mental gymnastics, more than verifying facts.  In Greek, “to believe” means “to give one’s heart to.”  Believing encompasses more than our minds.   It relates to where we place our trust and to whom we give our love.


The first letter of John offers words of encouragement written to a community that is troubled by schism.  Whatever were the details of the split – and since we have a response by only one side we must read between the lines – the disagreement has been serious enough that some folks have packed up and left the church.  Anyone who has experienced the trauma of a congregational split, or the disaffiliations that the UMC is now experiencing, can imagine how devastating this development would have been for parties on both sides of the divide.

The community to whom John wrote was unable to remain in fellowship due to significant differences in their belief about Jesus.  At the heart of the matter, according to John, is that the people who have left are denying that Jesus is the Christ.  They still understand themselves as followers of Jesus, but what they believe and confess about him differs from those who remain.

In the current reality of the UMC (our denomination), is that those who remain believe that God loves and equips everyone for ministry in Christ’s name, while those who have left believe that some are outside of God’s loving, accepting embrace.

One of the primary aims of I John is to persuade the remaining community members that they have good reason to hold on to their confession of faith because they have experienced its truth in their very existence as a community of faith.  Faith, according to this text, is not simply a matter of cognitive assertion; it is the testimony of the real-life embodied experience of saving LOVE that has given them to God.  The glue that holds the church together is God’s LOVE, which has bound the church together into one family as children of God who love one another.  God is the source of our identity.

Sadly, in the midst of separation and disagreement it is not uncommon for a community (or individuals in it) to lose confidence in its ability to move faithfully into an unknown future.  It is too easy to get bogged down in the questions of “what if” and fears about “what might be?”  This is when those definitions of believing (giving one’s heart to God) and faith (giving one’s life to Christ) give us the courage to step forward without fear into living as children of God.  The church need not gaze wistfully for a “someday,” or “somewhere out there” to come in order to possess the fullness of its identity as Children of God who love one another.  There is no need to wait until there are more members, or more resources, or more of whatever we might think is necessary to be a good, or faithful, inclusive, missional church.  We bear witness to the reality that this Divine LOVE meets us where we are, in joy and in sorry, in confusion and in clarity.  For Christ is risen.  Christ brings us peace and purpose, if we will only believe, have faith, trust, and LOVE.  We are Children of God!

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