Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
John 13:31-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The New Commandment
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him,[a] God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
When I read today’s scripture reading, I think of the advice from Steven Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Perhaps his best-known sentence is “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
For Jesus, what was the Main Thing? Maybe it is so simple that it can be easy to miss. It’s summed up in just one word: Love.
When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
When Jesus gathered his disciples for the last meal together, he was preparing his disciples for the time when he would no longer be with them. He spoke these words to them: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) It is just one of many times that Jesus emphasized that the relationship with others is the most important thing and whatever stands in the way or distracts us away from loving others needs to be set aside. Love is The Main Thing.
Love one another…just as I have loved you.
For Jesus, it’s clear that love is the main thing. It is also love that is the primary mark of discipleship. He went on to say, “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
In the Guinness Book of World Records there is listed the shortest sermon ever preached. It was given by John Albrecht, an Episcopal priest in Michigan. He stood in his pulpit to preach, paused, and said “Love!” He then sat down. Some of Albrecht’s members said it was the best sermon he ever preached.
Is there any other one-word sermon he could have preached that would capture the Main Thing?
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13 has talked about the spiritual gifts God has given everyone and he has talked about the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. Now, Paul says, in essence, without love the greatest gift in the world is nothing. He says that without love, anything we do is without meaning and significance.
Paul was clear about the Main Thing: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three: but the greatest of these is love.”
When the Apostle Paul describes what a life well lived — the Christian life — looks like, he uses the image of a tree bearing fruit. “The Fruit of the Spirit,” he called it in his letter to the Galatians. He lists the nine aspects of that fruit and the very first one is love. (Galatians 5:22)
If we are living as disciples of Jesus, striving to live our lives in the way Jesus calls us to live, then love will be evident in our lives.
Think about Jesus’ new commandment he gave to his followers and all who would be his followers down to the present. In your life, are you striving to love as Jesus loved? Are you keeping the main thing the main thing? It’s a good spiritual inventory question. Answering that question can help us determine some important things about our own faith and the way we are living it out in our lives.
You may remember that one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People is, “Begin with the end in mind.” Visualize yourself, Covey says, at your own funeral and listen in your imagination to what people say about you. It matters little what your net worth was. It matters little how many times your name was in the headlines. These things will not last. Only two will: Is the world a better place because you’ve been here? Did you leave behind a legacy of love?
Covey’s Advice is really good: Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing and Begin with the end in mind.
I invite you to pray a lesser-known prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226):
Our Father, each day is a little life, each night a tiny death; help us to live with faith and hope and love. Lift our duty above drudgery; let not our strength fail, or the vision fade, in the heat and burden of the day. O God, make us patient and pitiful one with another in the fret and jar of life, remembering that each fights a hard fight and walks a lonely way. Forgive us, Lord, if we hurt our fellow souls; teach us a gentler tone, a sweeter charity of words, and a more healing touch. Sustain us, O God, when we must face sorrow; give us courage for the day and hope for the morrow. Day unto day may we lay hold of thy hand and look up into thy face, whatever befall, until our work is finished and the day is done. Amen.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster