A Simple Song

Do you remember the very first Sunday School song you ever learned?  Or the first hymn that grabbed hold of you?  I do.  The Sunday school song I remember I learned when I was a wee thing.  Maybe four.  Maybe three.  Not older than four.  I remember singing it often.  Sometimes when I was afraid.  Sometimes when I was unsure.  And sometimes when I needed to feel on top of the world.  Even to this day I find myself singing that song.  It goes like this:

Jesus loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to him belong

They are weak but he is strong.

Jesus loves me.  That’s what I needed to hear—especially in the moments when I felt most unlovable.

I think those first followers of Jesus needed to hear that too.  Theirs were not easy lives.  They were the ones others called weak.  They were the ones others pushed aside.  They needed to hear, they needed to feel, they needed to know that Jesus—that God—loved them.

I can imagine that when Jesus died on the Cross they began to wonder.  I can imagine they had their doubts.  No wonder they turned to one another.

Filled with fear, they huddled together in an upper room, talking only to one another.  But the Spirit of God eventually blew them out of that room.  They found themselves out on the streets of Jerusalem telling others the story of God’s love.  Telling others the story of Jesus.  But still they believed God’s love was just for them and people like them.  They might well have sung to themselves,

Jesus loves us this we know

For the Bible tells us so.

Little ones (like us) to him belong

(We) are weak but he is strong.

Then Peter, the leader of those early followers of Jesus, found himself on a rooftop in Joppa.  And everything changed.  First for Peter and then for the others.  Peter had a vision—a vision of God showing him and telling him that he should “kill and eat”—not only things that were kosher but also things that weren’t.  Then Peter heard the Spirit of God sending him to folks quite different from him.  Folks that weren’t even Jewish.  Then he saw the Spirit of God descend on a Gentile household.  Imagine that—God loves us and them!

We hear this story against the backdrop of our lives.  We think about folks that get excluded—the suspect categories our courts look at when it comes to discrimination.

We hear this story and, in place of the Gentiles God was calling Peter to serve and to include, and we plug in people who have been overlooked, pushed aside, told they are unclean.  People like long-term committed lesbian and gay couples who want to be married in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the church.  People like the garment workers in Bangladesh who want to work in safe conditions.  Sometimes people who share our lives.  Often people who live at arms length from us.  People we would include in the song:

Jesus loves me (and those I love) this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones (like me and them) to him belong

(We) are weak but he is strong.

But then we hear Jesus’ new commandment, “Love one another.”  He was talking to his followers.  To Peter and the Zebedee brothers—people that got on one another’s nerves.  To Judas—the one who betrayed him—and to the people at the table with Judas.  To Mary Magdalene, to his mother, to the other women who stood with him—women whose very presence at the table threatened others sharing the meal.

“Love one another.”  “What?” we say to Jesus.  Or maybe we say, “Who?”  The neighbor whose tree encroaches on our space?  The colleague who drives us nuts?  The brother or sister or aunt or uncle who makes family gatherings a chore?  The weird kid who lives next door?  “Love one another”—that’s a tall order.

To the early followers of Jesus, a man name John wrote, “Little children, love one another for love is from God.  Love is God.”

We don’t love on our own.  We open ourselves up to God’s love.  Sometimes when we step aside, that love flows through us and changes everything.

Jesus loves us—all of us—

Those we love and those we don’t

For to Him we all belong

Both the weak and the strong.

 

Yes, Jesus loves us.

Yes, Jesus loves.

The Bible tells us so.

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