In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have you ever pondered what drew people to Jesus? I mean, we know some folks tried to treat him as a divine vending machine in human flesh. Shoot, you've probably done that too. I know I have. But why would they want to be stay with him, to hang around with him, to listen to him?
I suspect it was as simple as this: because He really cared. His love was "genuine" (without hypocrisy, which is more at the Greek in Romans 12). He never put on a show. And He didn't just care or love in the sense of having some kind emotion toward others. He really did take their problems, their heartaches, their troubles, as His own. I mean, that IS one aspect of what His cross was all about. "He carried our sorrows...."
So this real investment in others, so selfless, never once asking what was in it for Him, but only seeing your need and mine, and yours, and yours...this is what draws. This is the light that shines in Him. And we discover that this is the light of God Himself shining in this man. "In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness."
And it spills out. It spills out from Him into you. Into His Church. That's what Paul was describing in that lovely reading from Romans. If you're like me, when the imperatives start piling up, you're tempted to start tuning out. Or you pull the old Lutheran "well, that's law and I haven't done it and it's a good thing my sins are forgiven." It IS a good thing your sins are forgiven, but you've got to hear those imperatives for what they really are: they are invitations to you to partake of Christ's life. Because if you are clear that they don't describe you, they sure as shooting describe Him. Bless those who persecute you: how about I let 'em kill Me to blot out their sins and give them the gift of home with me and my Father and to pour upon them my Spirit to believe that my love for them is real and unshakeable. Contributing to the needs of the saints? How about feeding the hungry with His body and the thirsty with His blood and wrapping the naked in His perfect righteousness, and inviting the homeless into His home, and the lonely into a friendship that never ends. Do you see? All Paul did was to describe the life of Jesus and let you see that's no achievement you come up with; that's a gracious gift He's reaching you in the church, in His body.
It's the beating heart of worship. His love poured out on sinners. Him calling us to come into His embrace and taste a love that abides forever. And that light of love that shines from Him animates His community, His Church, His family. That's the light that calls the nations still to come and hangout with Jesus. Without that love, the world will always yawn at our words. Mission. Evangelism. Call it what you will, but without love, the world calls it bull. But when we're known as the people who bless those who persecute us and live in constant prayer, and freely give to any brother or sister we see in need, then the world will ask about this light shining through us and among us, and it will be our joy to declare that it's not US, but it is Him, and it's for them too. So we invite the nations to join us in our worship of this God who never ceases to bathe us in the unfathomable and joyous light of His divine love in Jesus, His Son.
Hymn: #396 Arise and Shine in Splendor