PART 3: THE FRONTLINE COMMUNITY
“A NEW COMMAND I GIVE YOU: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, SO YOU MUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER” (JOHN 14: 34)
When John Nichol climbed into his Tornado bomber to fly into the veritable storm of flak that would bring his plane down over Iraq in “Operation Desert Storm” in 1991, he did it because he was a commissioned officer of Her majesty and a citizen of the United Kingdom. He did it because he believed that what Saddam Hussein had done in invading peaceful Kuwait was wrong. But he was scared – very scared. He declared that what gave him the strength to fly into the storm was not just his beliefs and his commission, but was the community that he was in, the camaraderie that bolstered him, and the determination to not let them down – even if it meant dying. His community was his family at home and his comrades with whom he served in the Gulf – the other fliers and the ground crews. When the struggle was hard, when the fear came upon them, they stood together, they ate together, they literally hugged one another and cried like babies on each other’s shoulders. The love for his family was ever present in his mind, the support of his community of service men and women was ever present by his side. He writes that when it was all over and the battle was won, the veterans who had served together stayed together. They would often drink alone with each other, conscious that those around them didn’t really understand…their community (family and comrades-in-arms) literally kept the nightmares at bay and helped them cope with all they had been through…
It’s because of Jesus that we are here today. It’s because of Jesus that we have committed ourselves to living on the frontline of the world. It’s because Jesus made us citizens of the Kingdom of God that we often suffer for our faith. It’s because Jesus loved us, lived for us, died for us, and rose from the dead to give us the promise and sure hope of eternal life in Paradise that we are willing to suffer and eager to tell others – especially our loved ones – of the hope we have in Him.
Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 14: 34-35). You know, we haven’t got the answer to the question “why?” to all the problems of life – all the troubles that we face on the frontline – we don’t know why some people live and some people die, why some people get rich, and others get poor, why some get ill while others stay well. But this we do know: when we stay together, when we agree with one another on what is really important, when we care for each other and love each other, then we remain strong on the frontline of our lives.
Our frontline community begins with us – together we are stronger. But then we take our frontline community out to…well…our community – as we take the love of God that He has for us, out to those who we live amongst, work amongst, share amongst…and we do this for no other reason than that we want to love “them” like Christ has loved “us”. We want to bring the love of God in our community out to “them” in our wider community.
There are 2 communities that we are called to be a part of. Firstly, our community is where we “are” …let’s begin to think of creative ways in which we can bring God’s love out to our frontline community – the ones we live with, work with, do clubs with. We’ll be looking at our life on this frontline community in our home groups this week. The second is the one we are focusing on today – our family – both natural (spouses, parents and children) and spiritual (our church family).
So again I say, our frontline community begins where we are. Let us end by going back to the example of John Nichol and his experiences in the First Gulf War. No matter how scared he was, there was no way that he was going to let down his “mates”. It should be, it must be, the same for us. Life on the frontline for our faith as citizens of the Kingdom of God can be very, very tough. But when we stand together, love each other, pray for each other, care for each other…then we will be strong together as we go out to serve the wider community on our frontlines. It truly does begin with “a new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. These are good words, wise words…words that, when we put them into action, will ensure that we are able to live on the frontline.
Today we join with two of God’s children as they go through the waters of baptism…today they are making a stand for Jesus. Today they are declaring their commitment to Him because of what He has done for them. Today we stand up with them and declare to them that we are their spiritual family – living and serving with them in community – and that we are here to love them, care for them and support them as they serve on their frontline.
Taking communion is so very much tied up with the theme of today’s message – being part of the frontline community. Gill is going to read Luke 22: 14-20. Jesus gathered His closest disciples around Himself on the night that He was betrayed. It was His community. And He loved them. And being with them, I believed, gave Him the strength and the motivation to set His face towards the cross on which He would die. They were “in it together” on the frontline and He was willing to die for them. And now, as we share communion together – and as communion is shared by Christians around the world – we are declaring both our thanks to Jesus for what He did for us, and also our commitment to one another – to the community of believers. As we share communion here, we share it with those on the frontline of Ukraine, those in the prison camps of North Korea, and those in the hideaways of Afghanistan.
As Abby and Catherine stand before God and you, they are NOT declaring that they have got it “all together”. They are not declaring that they have got all the answers of why things have happened in life and in their lives. They are not declaring that they have sorted out all their problems. What they ARE declaring to you today is that despite all their on-going troubles and their unanswered questions that this they DO know: that God created the Heavens and the Earth; that God loves all of us so much that He wishes none of us to perish but all of us to attain to Eternal Life in Paradise; that God is not looking for them to be perfect because He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be perfect for them – to die for them, to take away all the mess of their lives that we call sin; and that through His Resurrection – when He rose from the dead on Easter Day – that they now have the assurance of this everlasting life in Paradise with Him. And they are declaring that they are new creations, committed to serving Him on their frontlines from this day forward. And they are longing for all of you here to join them in this great adventure in Heaven by coming into a relationship with Jesus yourself. And as we stand with them, we are declaring our commitment to stand by them and love them as part of the community of believers to which they belong.