God of Love: Following Love                      John 6:68

Proper 15 Pent 12B                           August 15, 2021                                            St. John, New Orleans, LA

If you've ever been to Rocky Mountain National Park you probably entered it via US Highway 34 up the Big Thompson River Canyon between Loveland and Estes Park, Colorado. 

And if you wanted to go over the continental divide over to Winter Park Colorado, you have two choices to get there. 

You can continue to take US 34, 

also called trail Ridge Rd, 

which is paved and two lanes, one lane in each direction, 

or you can take Fall River Rd, 

which is gravel and one way, uphill, and much steeper than trail Ridge Rd. 

It can also get notoriously rough and wash boarded by the end of summer, becoming difficult to travel. 

But to take either road a decision has to be made. 

And it's made at a crossroads in downtown Estes Park at 7522 feet above sea level, 

long before you actually see the route you are taking. 

And, if you choose Fall River road, there is no turning back. 

Remember, it's a one way, singletrack, uphill climb of 4274 feet in just 9.4 miles. 

That is on average a 21% grade. 

While the views, overlooks, and scenic trailheads are simply amazing, 

there are no guardrails. 

There are no services. 

And there is no turning back.  To take this road you must commit to following it.

There are other crossroads moments in life that have a much greater effect on us than which day-trip we might enjoy. 

If you are married, you had to decide, “is this the person I choose for life, forsaking all others?” 

if you went to college, you eventually had to decide a major course of study toward which you would apply your degree. 

If you ever bought a house, it was a similar decision. “Is this where I want to live for the foreseeable future?” 

There are certain decisions, even if thrust upon us by outward influences, which must be made. 

And the decision we make is life changing either way. 

And the potential outcome from these decisions could be rewarding, or devastating. 

And, yet, make them we must.

In our lessons today similar crossroads are placed before the people of God. 

Paul asks the Ephesians if they will follow the road to darkness, or become children of light? 

And Jesus asks his disciples if, after hearing him tell of his impending suffering and death, will they leave him, as others have done, after this bad news? 

And in both cases, the answer is found in choosing and following love. 

For the ephesians, Paul encourages them to no longer disobey God as they had before faith in Jesus, 

but to choose obedience 

which demonstrates the enlightenment of God in them through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Obedience to the wishes of our heavenly father is the most powerful statement of our love for him. 

Because we love him, we want to please him, not make him angry or ashamed of us. 

And Peter, when answering for his fellow disciples, 

answered in a way which demonstrated their great love for Jesus, when he said, 

Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed, and have come to know that you are the holy one of God.”

They knew God's love, expressed through Jesus, 

and wanted that communion of love to go on as long as it could. 

They would not seek to leave him,.

While the faith we possess is a gift of the Holy Spirit, 

how we follow that faith is a matter choice. 

And because faith is all about the love of God for sinners, 

our obedience and our response to faith is a sort following of that love. 

Love follows after love. 

Love is as love does.

And so the love of Jesus which we follow is one of sacrifice and generosity toward everyone

This truth has both law and gospel applications. 

The law of love would point us to the necessity of demonstrating faith by loving God and others in outward and obvious ways. 

But the gospel of love which saves us from hell and eternal separation from God 

moves us to love him in return with our thanks and praise. 

And too, in turn, love others in like manner., 

so that they might experience even a glimpse of the love of God we know through Jesus Christ. 

And when we aren’t filled with the gospel of love toward God and others

the law reminds us of God's love toward us by the cross

and pushes us to repentance and onward towards more loving behavior.

The law of love is kind of like when you teach a child good manners when they failed to say “please” and “thank you.” 

when we forgot to use such pleasantries our parents would say, “what do you say?” 

and we would utter the appropriate words. 

And, even though Forced, 

they were hopefully appreciated by those we were thanking or asking a favor. 

So too, when Jesus commands his disciples to, “love one another as I have loved you,” 

It is on one hand a law as it is commanded, 

yet it is gospel as we are reminded of the love of Christ to save sinners.

When you and I follow love, love trails behind us as well. 

When we fully embrace the love of God found in his word and sacrament, it transforms us. 

And when we are transformed by love, 

others benefit from that transformation as we come to a crossroad 

where we choose that which honors God and serves others 

instead of that which dishonors God and serves ourselves. 

And, as I said before, that love is found in the word in the sacraments. 

So if you want to know that love, go there! 

Worship regularly and read your Bible daily. 

Partake of the sacrament often. 

And that love will fill you and transform you. 

And so, just like with confession and absolution, the law must come before the gospel. 

Therefore, before you can know the full extent of love of God in Christ, 

you must know what he did for you as you study his Word 

and in deed by receiving the sacrament. 

But once you do, the love is overwhelming. 

And acts of love come out from us without our even thinking about it. 

We become more caring and considerate. 

We become more proactive in helping and serving. 

And we become more generous in all aspects of life. 

Because the love we have from God surpasses all understanding 

and moves us to such joyous extremes.

Our school theme for this year follows this line of thinking. Our theme is “love your neighbor.” 

Yes, it's a wonderful tool for classroom management, that's the law of love, 

but, more importantly for those for who know Jesus, 

it's one more way we can choose to follow Jesus each and every day of the school year, 

and give a voice and an action to the love we have received from him. 

And I hope each of you can join us in some way 

to extend that love to our neighbors here in Mid-City this school year. 

Stay informed by our web page as well as the weekly bulletin announcements 

about ways we will be loving our neighbors in the school this year.

And, appropriate for your gifts and talents, join in those projects, ministries and events.