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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

We Snoop Because We Care

2016-04-24 John 13:31-35 We Snoop Because We Care

When our girls were little, we had one of those audio baby monitors.
You parents now have full-fledged spy cameras to watch your babies.
In case they're stealing state secrets or tunneling out of the crib.
It's like you're keeping El Chapo in your nursery.

And then they become teenagers.
About that fast.
You put those GPS apps on their phone that track their location down to the foot.

And then YOU get older and the kids start monitoring YOU.
They watch your FitBit stats online.
"Dad's only taken 10 steps today.
"He's either fallen or he's binge-watching Netflix."

It's a surveillance society, people.
It's for your own good.
Any parent who's gone through their child's room will tell you: We snoop because we care.
We're not watching you; we're watching out for you.
Because we can't be with you every minute – yet.
Hologram Dad can't go on your dates with you – yet.
Virtual Mom can't always be in the passenger seat giving you driving tips – yet.

We snoop because we care.
Sometimes we have to the store, go on a weekend trip – and we want to be sure you don't party like it's 1999 – or duct tape your brother to the wall.
We're not control freaks.
We're not dictators.
We care.


God cares.
We say God watches over us.
We believe God has eyes in the sky – or somewhere – and guards us and keeps us from all evil.
Psalm 121 says:
The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time on and forevermore.

So be at peace.
God's security system cannot be hacked.
God's satellites will not go down.
God's got your six.
Or something like that.

But on the other hand.

Some people just insist on being stupid.
Not even God can stop stupid.
"Stupid is as stupid does," and stupid does as much as it can get away with.
It's like a disease, a highly infectious disease.
You can be a carrier and not even know it.
In fact, the surer you're not, the closer you are to dropping a Stupid Bomb.
I love that Mark Twain quote: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
Stupid goes where angels fear to tread.

If you were God –
insert pause here –
If you were God – and if you had to go away for, like, I don't know, three days –
and if you had to leave the kids in charge, how would you be sure?
How would you be sure the sun would not strike them by day nor the moon by night because you know stupid never sleeps.

If you were God and you wanted to make absolutely, positively sure their feet would not be moved, if you wanted to be certain their going out and their coming in and their going back out would be kept from all evil…

If you were God and you wanted to do that – pause again – how would you?

Would you threaten them?
Would you threaten to smite them with ten commandments tablets?

Would you bribe them?
Would you promise them milk and honey and all the gold in California if they could just behave like human beings for one extended weekend?

Would you assemble an army of little twerps?
And give them clipboards to write down every infraction so when you got back, on your Day of Judgment, could review the records and repay each as they deserved?

And because you're God, you could come over every device and screen and explain that you threaten because you care.
You bribe because you care.
You snoop because you care.
You punish and you reward because you care.

Would you?
You could.

But because you're God, you'd probably want to ask yourself a question.
You'd probably want to ask yourself, "But, is it enough?"
You'd probably want to ask yourself if it's really godly to be God of the Scared, the God of the Bribed, the God of the Snooped.
Is it?
What do you think you'd say?

What do you think God says?


This scripture from John today is one we read after Easter.
But it takes place before Easter.
We read it then, too.
Do you remember?
This part where Jesus says, "I give you a new commandment"?
Do you remember when last we heard him say, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples"?
Spoiler alert: Maundy Thursday.

Maundy Thursday.
The night Jesus washed his disciples' feet.
The night Jesus served the Last Supper.
But also the night he predicted Judas's betrayal and Peter's denial.
The night he gave a mandatum – a mandate – a new commandment.
A commandment not written on stone.
A commandment for when he was gone.

Jesus looked around the table and said, "Little children, I am with you only a little longer.
You will look for me; …so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.'

Jesus knew what was going to happen.
He knew about the betrayal.
He knew about the denial.
He knew about the trial, and the crucifixion, and the death, and the three days of grave.
He was going away.

At first it was three days.
But the early church figured out he was going to be away a lot longer.
He said he was coming back.
They believed he was coming back.
But when?

So, if you were God and you were going away for an undetermined time, and if you wanted to keep the "little children" from doing stupid things, what was it you'd do?
What was your idea?
Here's what Jesus did.
Here's the set of instructions Jesus left.

Are you ready for this?
Because it's pretty complicated.
Here it comes.

He told them: "Love one another."
"Love one another." Huh.

OK, Lord, but what happens when…?
Love one another.

But, then, what do I do if…?
Love one another.

Well, sure, but you know how he is and how she is, what if…?
Love one another.


He said, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

And then he went out.
And he was betrayed.
And he was denied.
And he was arrested.
And he was sentenced.
And he was hung on a cross.
And then he died.
And then he was buried.

If you were a disciple – if you heard Jesus – if you heard his new commandment – might you have wondered… is it enough?
Is love enough?

And you now – in your pew – as someone who has heard the words of Jesus – as someone who sees stupidity, evil, and their consequences every day – do you ever wonder… is love enough?

Sure, we can love one another.
But are we supposed to love ISIS?

Sure, we can love one another, but are you supposed to love the people who talk about you behind your back?

Sure, we can love one another, but are you supposed to love creeps and abusers and stupid, stupid people who can't restrain their idiocy?

Even if you can love them, is it enough?

Do you ever wonder about stuff like that?
I do.

Here's what I see when I read this scripture.
Jesus intentionally waited to give his new commandment of love –
he waited until the night when everything hit the fan.
As soon as the words are out of his mouth, everything falls apart.
What I see here is that not even the love of Jesus Christ can stop this world's stupid.
The Bible even says it's going to take a new heaven and a new earth before that happens.
Check out Revelation 21:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more."
Not even the love of Jesus Christ can stop the world's downward swirl of stupid, evil, and death.

But fixing the world is not the point.
The point of Jesus's New Commandment of love is to get us by.
It's a temporary solution.
It's meant for the time being when he's not around.
The point of Jesus's commandment to love one another is this and this alone: to know and be known as disciples.
For the sake of the world.

"By this EVERYONE will know," he says, "that you are my disciples."
That's it.
Not the prohibition of bad stuff.
But the presentation of good stuff, even and especially when it feels like the whole world is going to hell.

Does it work?

Will love keep us?
Will love be enough?
Will love protect our going out and our coming in from this time forth and forever more?

I'm not convinced God would say these are the right questions.

Love might not save us.
But maybe that's not the point.
Love might not save us, but it will make us know and be known, make us see and be seen not by the eye but by the heart and by the Holy Spirit of a loving God and maybe by a few people, too.
But you know how people are.
You can't fix 'em.
Maybe you can only love them.
Can we do that?
I don't know.
But Jesus seemed to think so.

We are one in the Spirit.
They'll know we are Christian by our love.
Sweet song.
But is it enough?
Is love – our love – ever enough?
If we want to know our Savior's commands – and if we want to live by our Savior's commands as long as we get to live, then, yes.
Yes it is.
It is enough and more.
Until the day when he comes to wipe the tears from every eye.
Until the day when he comes to lift us out of fear and into life.
Until the day he comes to make all things new.

Until then, love'll have to do.