Worship in Place | Easter 4 | April 25


The video above includes the full service, except for the time for sharing.

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained through One License with license A-727859.

Order of Worship | Easter 4



Land Acknowledgement 

We acknowledge we are gathering on land where Miami, Osage, Shawnee, and other Indigenous peoples have lived and labored, fought, and loved. We continue to work and pray for justice and conciliation.      

Call to Worship

Peace Candle 

VT 1 | Summoned by the God Who Made Us | Voices Together Launch Choir

Children’s Time 

Offering/Dedication Prayer

Offertory | La Fille aux cheveux de lin by Claude Debussy |Tom Blosser, piano

Scripture | I John 3:16-24

Sermon | “Let us love…in truth”  

Silent Reflection

Hymn | Love is a beautiful thing (Anita’s song) | Text: Anita Chapman | Vocals: Debra, Galen, Sarah and Elizabeth Martin, Tom and Mary Blosser, Rick Leonard. Violin: Elizabeth Martin

Mission Moment | Keeping CMC Safe/Dove’s Nest

Pastoral Prayer 

Extinguishing the Peace Candle 

VT 846 | The Lord Bless You and Keep You | Vocals: Debra, Galen, Sarah, and Elizabeth Martin, Tom and Mary Blosser, Rick Leonard. 



Congregational Meeting | 11:00 am


Thanks to everyone who helped lead today’s service

Sermon: Joel Miller

Worship Leader: Jen Cartmel

Music coordination: Tom Blosser

Children’s Time and Mission Moment: Jeanette Harder

Peace Candle: Kerry Strayer

Scripture Reading: Eliza Wertenberger

Zoom Host: Sarah Werner



Sermon Manuscript | “Let us love…in truth” 

1 John has a lot to say about love.  The writer emphasizes the practical nature of love, urging the community over and over to love one another.  And not just in words or speech, as one of the verses from today says, but in truth and action. 

In reading through 1 John again the word love came up so much I was curious just how many times it gets mentioned.  Writing in Greek, which famously has multiple words that we translate into English as love, John’s choice is always agape, and by my count, from the first mention of agape in the letter to the last, a span of 73 verses, agape, in all its forms, shows up 52 times.  That is a very high love-to-verse ratio – 52 mentions in 73 verses.  It has to be the densest love patch in the Bible, the loviest series of chapters we’ve got. 

So…yeah…love one another, love one another, love another, and… love another. 

If we need a little more to go on than just that, the writer emphasizes that this love we express toward one another is a response to, an echo of, a participation in Divine love. The love of God precedes our own just like a mother’s love precedes the birth of a child.

1 John goes so far as to state that love is not just what God does, God the noun doing the verb of love.  But, in the words of chapter 4 verse 8: “God is love.”  This is the only place in the Bible I’m aware of that equates the Divine with love itself.  In our finite human minds, the closest thing we have to the is-ness of God, the dynamic energy of the Source of all energy and life itself, is love.  Let’s let that sink in for a bit.  God. Is. Love.

So, we have 52 references of love to choose from, although within today’s reading, a mere five.  And of those, one stands out to me for a deeper dive.  It’s that one I already mentioned:

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

We’ve likely heard many times that love includes action, and not just words or speech, but the idea that we should love in truth isn’t as common.  What might this mean, to love in truth?

When I meet with couples for marriage prep counseling I have them read an essay by Alain de Botton titled, “Why you will marry the wrong the person.”  Nothing like a healthy dose of pessimism to get you started on the right foot. 

The point of the essay is not to be overly pessimistic about relationships, but, shall we say, truthful.  No one is the “right” person to marry, as in the person who will understand our thoughts before we speak them and fulfill our every relational need. 

Toward the beginning of the essay Botton writes: “We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”     

He continues: “The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the ‘not overly wrong’ person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

And, in what is one of my favorite sentences I’ve encountered about marriage: “Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.” 

Within this quote is also a graceful insight for why marriages don’t always last.  Perhaps if we recognize marriage as a hopeful participation in a generous and infinitely kind gamble, we can have more grace with others and ourselves if things don’t work out the way we expected or hoped.      

Although I’ve not thought before of this essay connecting with this verse from 1 John, it intersects well with the instruction to love in truth.  That is, to love what actually is, rather than our idea of what love ought to be.  In this case, to love a person. 

John is especially concerned about what love looks like as a community of people bound together not by marriage commitments or family bonds, but by a common commitment to a way of being in this world modeled in Jesus.  In other words, a community like this one gathered this morning.   

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

And there’s more going on here within 1 John as a document of the early church, a product of particular historical circumstances.  As far as we can tell, the situation prompting the writing had to do with one of the many disagreements and splits within the growing church movement as it made contacts well beyond its origins in Palestine.  In chapter 4, right after the reading from today and right before dropping that line “God is love,” John writes this: By this we know the spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist.

It’s pretty odd to us that the criteria for someone as a true believer is someone who confesses that Jesus came in the flesh.  But this was a big deal for John and his community.  By that time perhaps 70 or 80 years after Jesus’ life and ministry, several generations removed, a certain belief had crystalized that Jesus had been a spirit and not a human being like the rest of us are human beings.  This was called Docetism, with the Greek root of that meaning “to seem.”  It only seemed like Jesus had flesh and blood when he was actually a divine spirit.

We likely find it the harder stretch to equate Jesus with Divinity.  Of course he was a human being, but Divine? What does that mean exactly?  But for plenty of folks encountering Christianity in the ancient world, it was easy to believe Jesus was Divine.  Of course he was divine. The harder part was believing Jesus was an actual human being.  That he had to eat and drink to stay healthy and alive, that he got tired – had to rest and sleep, that he sought out companionship, and needed time away to restore himself –  maybe that his armpits didn’t always smell so great on a hot day.  How could you believe that the Son of God had smelly armpits?

And John, in a rather direct way, is saying – Hey, if you don’t believe Jesus came in the flesh, you’re not on our team.  In fact, that’s the spirit of the antichrist.  That’s anti Christ.  That’s against what we’re all about here.  We’re on team human.  Team flesh and blood.  And guess what humans have to do even if we don’t feel like it?  We have to love each other.  Love each other.  Love each other.  52 times love each other, which amounts to every week of the year, but I’m guessing that’s more of a happy accident than a master plan of the letter.   

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

And the truth is, love grounds us in the flesh and blood of our humanity.  Loving what is in a partner, a friend, our children.  Love for our community, our actual community with actual neighbors and actual policies and design that may or may not be as we would like it.  Love for our nation and planet.  Love for our church and the actual people that make the church church.   

It’s not just spirits and ideas we’re loving here.  We’re loving one another – which can involve some work.  That takes presetting the oven to 350 degrees, mixing the ingredients, baking the casserole, and delivering it to the doorstep.  And that’s the part that smells good. 

When we love one another, it’s the closest thing we have to seeing God. 

And, if John is to be trusted, that’s the truthiest truth we’ve got to hold on to.  Christ has flesh.  God is love. 

We’re all just a bit crazy, but we still get to participate in the generous and infinitely kind gamble of loving the people and animals and plants and rocks in our lives, whether they be partner, neighbor, or enemy.

Love is the white hot thrill of Easter resurrection now present as a steady warmth to sustain us through the seasons of life.  

Beloved let us love in word and speech, and in action, and in truth.