Editor”s note: Chico pastor Gaylord Enns persuaded more than 20 local ministers to give sermons on June 5 that were inspired by his book, “Love Revolution.” Here is Father Hansen”s sermon, “The Command of Christ.” Hansen is pastor of St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church, Chico.
The cold little heart beats all for itself. Our lives are spent on the pursuit of ourselves. Maybe no man is an island, but there are many good peninsulas and not many roads onto them. People are selfish.
Then there”s God.
He once looked down on His creature and said that it”s not good for him to be alone. He created woman. But they fell to selfishness and alienation set in, from each other and from God. The cold little heart beat all for itself.
It”s all about love, God said. You need to love me with all that you have. And you to love each other, as much as you say you love yourself. There were other commandments, but they hung on these two ideals. Love and love. It hurts, it breaks your heart, but your heart was meant to do more than pump.
It”s sad when religion encourages us to seek only our own salvation and personal growth — I get myself safe and I”m done. Priesthood applies to every Christian. A priest must offer a sacrifice, one God calls for. Then God transforms it, gives it back better than it was, and the final act of priesthood is that the blessed offering is shared with others. Until that final action, it may seem to be about the priest. But it isn”t.
When we expand the concept to all Christians, a priestly and royal nation, we are called by God to offer a sacrifice, and what is it? Every Sunday school child knows: “I give Him my heart.” St. Paul says we are to give our souls and bodies, a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice to God Who transforms you and fills you with His Spirit. The reason for your priesthood becomes evident. Your new self has to be given away, not only to God, but to others. That”s what the love is for.
The Old Testament just scratched it. Love God was essential. It”s also impossible, but do what you can. Love your neighbor and as Jesus explained, “neighbor” comes down to everybody. Old Testament love — it”s a start.
We come to Jesus, believe and faithfully offer up our lives, souls and bodies, and we get the Old Testament priesthood right. Our minds, hearts, souls and strength are offered to God and we exchange pleasantness to others, as Christians ought to.
Now comes God. When we offer up our puny selves, finally it connects — it”s like an electrical cord from your heart plugged into God”s heart: PG&E. 500,000 volts. Now you know what it”s about — why Jesus came, what He meant and His new command: “that you love one another; as I have loved you … by this all will know that you are my disciples… .” “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one”s life for his friends.” (John 13:34-35; 15:13)
It”s why we were created, what salvation really looks like. We are priests toward God because we become priests toward each other: serve, love, give, sacrifice, go the extra mile, visit, eat with, listen to, care about, and break down barriers between our lives, so the world may look at the love we share in His Church and know that Jesus lives in us. This isn”t high-minded admonition. It”s a miracle. You can”t do it. Just plug that 110v line in and pray. It”s His power. When it hits, you have to give it away: power to transform your world. The only reason the world is dark is so few of us want to lighten it.
All across our city this morning, dozens of pastors are speaking about this new Command of Christ: love one another. Is that God or not?
You can”t know the love of God fully unless you love Christians to the point you”d die for them. Then it comes. I”ve seen it, I”ve felt it. The New Covenant in Jesus” blood is a transfusion that will make these cold little hearts hot and huge, beating for others. Ready to switch on the power? Love is power, a transformation of everyone we see and hear and touch. It”s about the other, and in the process, lo and behold, we too are saved.