“Love One Another”
“Love One Another Earnestly from a Pure Heart”
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth
for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly
from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22).”
Let me start today’s sermon with this question: What motivated you to come to church today? Here’s an experience I’ve had; maybe you’ve had it, too. When I drive around town, I often pass church signs inviting visitors to come. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to walk into a different church, especially when I am by myself. If you are wondering when that happens, if I am on a “staycation,” Erica and the boys are here, and I will try different churches as the elders have asked me to do that. But if I knew someone in that church, someone whom I respect, someone who has a good/pure heart, then it might be a different story. So, back to my opening question, what motivated you to come to our church today? I think the beginning of the answer is the people, our people, all of you. But I will get back to that…
Today is LWML Sunday. “LWML” stands for the “Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.” The LWML is an auxiliary of our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and has members throughout North America. As the word “missionary” in their name suggests, they sponsor mission efforts reaching around the world, with the idea being that more and more people learn the Good News about Jesus. For this LWML Sunday, I’d like us to think about 1 Peter 1:22, Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. You can picture today’s sermon by looking at the logo for LWML Sunday, “Our Hearts in HIS Hand.”
Think about a heart in a hand. Literally, think about holding a real heart in your hand. That’s what a transplant surgeon does. He takes out the diseased heart with his hand and puts in a new heart. That’s what God has done to you and me. Do you see the cross and the drop of water in the logo? You know that the cross represents Jesus dying and rising again for the forgiveness of our sins. And you know the water drop points to your Baptism. Baptism gives a new heart, a pure heart with all the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. Long ago God had promised in the prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you,” (Ezekiel 36:26). He has kept His promise. Unlike a physical transplant that lasts some years, the new heart and LIFE God gives you through Baptism will last forever.
If you think this is just routine church talk, let me pause here for a moment. Why did God give you and me this “transplant?” Here’s why. I have within my heart thoughts and feelings, ideas, and urges that are sinful. I am a sinner. I’m not perfect. You already know this. This is true for you, too. My heart by nature is not pure and neither is yours. We are born with original sin, inherited from the sinners before us, all the way back to Adam and Eve, and we daily commit actual sins. Sooner or later, what’s deep down is going to be known. “No creature is hidden from his [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). This sin in us, original sin and the actual sins we commit daily, this sin will continue until the day we die.
This sounds bad. This is bad. But then there’s the cool thing about Baptism. Baptism brings us the forgiveness of Jesus Christ here-and-now and gives us grace to live new and holy lives here-and-now. When a surgeon transplants a human heart, new physical life comes to a fatally ill patient. Now God has given you a new heart, a pure heart, a new life … and with the life God gives, you have love, His love.
Let’s go back to our text…Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22). Two short remarks are necessary here. “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth” sounds like you have made yourself pure by keeping the commandments. That’s not what Peter means. Peter is simply talking about faith. Our new heart, our new birth, makes us “children of the heavenly Father” who trustingly look up to Him and want to live holy lives for His sake. Being pure before God is not our doing, it’s all grace. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). My second point of interpretation about our sermon text is this: When Peter says faith is for a “sincere brotherly love,” he’s not excluding women. In the New Testament, the word “brother” often means both men and women who believe in Jesus. We could paraphrase it this way: “Now that the cross of Jesus has come into your hearts through Baptism, we can love one another.” Once again, the logo shows it so well. The cross comes through Baptism into your heart, into my heart, into each of our hearts. And each new, purified heart is surrounded by a much bigger heart. That’s the church, a big-hearted place, where all our hearts are together in His hand.
At the start of the sermon, I asked what motivates us to come to church. The beginning of the answer is, I think, the people: you, me, all of us together. As we experienced during the Covid crisis, we can hear the Word of God over the internet, but being together, in person around the Word, is the truest reason we come together. Together with one another, God gives us His Word, His Word of new birth, of life and love in Jesus Christ. Together we receive this transforming Word as we hear it and as we receive it. There are various reasons we come to church, we come to receive what God gives, we come to say “Thanks,” and we come to worship because here all our hearts are together, not only together with one another, but most importantly, together in His hand.
When you think about it that way, there is something about worship that is different from other groups or associations you have during the week. Maybe you belong to an organization, perhaps a service organization, like Kiwanis or Rotary. Maybe you belong to a veterans’ organization, the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Maybe you belong to a country club or a fitness club. Maybe you just like to hang out with friends. That’s all well and good, but isn’t there, shouldn’t there, be something different about being together here, something uniquely special about fellowshipping with church members, gathering as the baptized to hear God’s Word and receive Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion? There is! This is what’s unique about our coming together each week in worship. It’s here that God comes through His Means of Grace to make us a big-hearted group of folks filled with His love. That’s how we “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” And that, I think, is the BIG reason we come to church, to get recharged to do that…to Love one another.
While we care about each other in here, we are also to care about those outside the church, too. Jesus is not content to hold only us in His hand. He reaches His hand out to others. When a leper met Jesus and begged to be healed, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him (Mark 1:41). When Jairus’s daughter died, Jesus took her “by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise’” and she had new life (Mark 5:41). When Peter tried to walk to Jesus on the water, he got scared and began to sink. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him (Matthew 14:31). And he took them [the little children] in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them (Mark 10:16).
Today He reaches out His hand through you and me to people who don’t know His life and love, to people who still have sinful hearts and desperately need the new heart Jesus gives. Remember when I mentioned organizations outside the church, like civic organizations, veterans’ groups, and the like? It’s good when you are involved in those organizations. It’s good because you can extend an invitation to people who have their struggles, their hurts, their hopes, their joys, but who don’t know Jesus. You’re there because you have a heart, a new heart in His hand that is reaching out to others. Having a pure heart means receiving everything God gives us in here, being blessed by His love, and then sharing His love and all the blessings He gives us with others. I pray that describes each of us.
Members of the LWML, Lutheran Women in Mission, thank you for your example and your encouragement. I hope we will all take this logo and remember the transformation that forgiveness has brought into our hearts and lives through Baptism. Coming together in worship, God makes us a big-hearted church that extends His hand of love to everyone. As it says in the logo:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8).
In the Name of Jesus.
Adapted from Material Written by Rev. Dale Meyer.