Dear brothers and sisters,
Today is August 30th, 2020. After about thirty “online worship,” Haidian Church resumed the service last week. Just like psalmist says in Psalm 122:1, I rejoice with those who said to me, “let us go to the house of the Lord.” We are grateful and rejoice for this. You are welcome to join our service at Haidian church by making online appointment. Or you can watch the live broadcast. May God bless you.
Another In The Fire
You Needed Me
John 15: 9-17
Dear brothers and sisters, peace in Christ. Before our sharing today, please join me in a short prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for your love, thank you for coming to us and choosing us. We are gathering again to hear your Word and we pray that your Holy Spirit will come to us and inspire us. May the meditation of my heart and the words from my mouth are from you and be pleased in your sight. Make your servant a tunnel of your love please, Lord, so that all of us may be touched by your Word and your love. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
It was a common hot summer morning, and the campus was as quiet as usual. It has been like this since the outbreak of the epidemic. I was walking quickly towards my office while listening to the music in my phone. All of a sudden, I heard this old song “You needed me”. This is one of the songs I marked as favorite, but very strangely, this is the first time that I heard the lyrics very very clearly.
I cried a tear, you wiped it dry
I was confused, you cleared my mind
I sold my soul, you bought it back for me
And held me up and gave me dignity
Somehow you needed me
The singer Anne Murray is a first Canadian female solo singer to reach No.1 on the U.S. charts in 1970s, and this song “You Needed Me” helped her win the Grammy Awards in 1978. Anne’s voice is soothing and the words are clearly uttered. I know I have heard this song many many times in the past but it is the first time the words came into my mind. And I was so touched by the words that I had to stop and listened to the song more carefully.
All of us like to sing the song “You raised me up” to praise the marvelous things this YOU have done in our life and expressing our deep gratitude to this YOU for saving us out of the miserable situations. Here the singer Anne Murray did something more. She said, “somehow you needed me”. Hearing this I could not help but pondering over this question: “Why you needed me?” Anne kept telling the story in her song:
You gave me strength to stand alone again
To face the world out on my own again
You put me high upon a pedestal
So high that I could almost see eternity
You needed me, you needed me
The lyric writer of this song Randy Goodrum once said that this song is talking about the “unconditional undeserved love”. When he was writing this song, he was thinking of his wife. Anne Murray picked up this song when she just got married and had her first kid. I am sure people have different persons in mind when they heard this song, and that is one of the reasons that it was loved by all when it was out. On that common hot summer morning, I knew this “YOU” for me is God. It is very strange that in the past years I have heard this song many times and never related it to my faith, but this morning, it touched me and brought me to think over the question: Why God needed me? Why such a powerful and loving God who rescued and saved me NEEDED me? It seems easier to understand why we, who are overwhelmed by failure, fear and despair needed this “You” or to praise the lord who raised us up. The lyrics seem to be telling the same content of God’s salvific actions in our lives but added another layer of meaning: we were saved from the failure and despair because You Needed Me. In other words, it is not only that the weak and miserable one like me needs God but also the powerful one needed me, the miserable and weak one. It is a two-way relationship. I need my God, and my God needs me. This is an aspect I have not thought about: What does it mean to our faith if we know God needed me?
Anne kept singing in her song:
You held my hand when it was cold
When I was lost you took me home
You gave me hope when I was at the end
And turned my lies back into truth again
You even called me "friend".
This reminds me of John 15: 9-17:
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
In John 13: 31-35, Jesus gave this new commandment - love each other- for the first time. In John 15:9-17, Jesus repeated the messages in Chapter 13 and 14. Once again we hear the call to abide with God as God abides in us. Once again, we hear about the power and the freeing nature of God’s love. Once again, we hear about how we as communities of faith are supposed to interact, support, and love one another. Once again, we hear the call to love each other. This means that the disciples’ experience of the love of God is not an individualistic personal blessing, but a testimony to the world that Christians are not merely “nice people,” but agents of God’s love for the world revealed in Christ.
These verses are part of the farewell discourse in the Gospel of John. Just imagine this scene. Jesus, who knows his destiny and coming threat of death, is saying good bye to his disciples. He tells them that he is treating them as friends, not servants or salves. He is telling them the easiest way to have joy in God and remain in God is to follow the command: love each other as Jesus has loved them. And I think this song YOU NEEDED ME can serve as an illustration of how Jesus has loved us. So we may answer that question: why YOU needed me now. God fixed us and brought us back to life, because God needed us to follow his command, to love others as God has loved us. So that others who did not see God can feel and see God, and can be fixed both physically and spiritually.
Yes, we can answer that question now. Why YOU needed me? You needed me to be your friend, not a servant, not a slave, and you needed me to live out this command: Love each other as you have loved me. Reading these verses at this current time when things are abnormal, chaotic and uncertain, when various kinds of natural and human disasters are happening everyday all over the world, I felt comforted and encouraged. Yes, Christ’s disciples are not those who offer him a blind, mechanical obedience, but are friends of Jesus and of one another. “Friend” is not a casual word in ancient world where hierarchical relations were common and to an extreme. What Jesus expected his followers is something different from this world’s common knowledge. Jesus’s followers are his friends, who are in the know and obey with informed commitment because John 15:15b “everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus has used himself to demonstrate this truth.
John emphasizes that there is no secret, mysterious body of knowledge known only to elite super-Christians but that the Christ event itself is a full revelation of God. God laid down the life of his only son for his friends, for us. What is more, Christ chose the disciples and us, not the disciples or we chose Jesus Christ. Christ needed us and appointed us to bear fruit, fruit that will last… so that whatever we ask in Christ’s name God will give us. (John 15:16b) Yes, Lord, now I understand why YOU needed me. You needed me to follow your command: love each other.
In these verses, John is reminding us that Jesus came to be with us, and through his death showed us how much God truly loves us. Jesus came and chose us, people who are imperfect, people who are broken, people who are very much human, to tell this world the Good News. Jesus came and invited us to abide in God just as God abides in us. John is reminding us that we are responsible for and to each other because we are connected and needed by God.
The Jewish thinker Martin Buber told us: “You know always in your heart that you need God more than anything else. But you need to know too that God needs you! In the fullness of his eternity He needs you.” He said in other places that “How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you – for that is the meaning of your life.”
Knowing why God needed us can also help us accept ourselves and our current life, job or situation. As said by the Jewish Rabbi Lawrence Kushner: “God puts you where God needs you. You are where you are supposed to be. The job you are doing may not be any easier on account of this, indeed it may be harder, even more urgent, but now you are centered, focused, clear. So, this is where I am supposed to be. I always thought I was supposed to be somewhere else, doing something else, being someone else. But I realize now that I was mistaken. This does not mean that I cannot or will not be doing something else. Just right now, I am where God wants me.”
Today I shared with you all a song that inspired me most this summer, “You NEEDED me.” Hearing the lyrics, I was obsessed by this question: Why God who has done so many things for me and changed me completely still says to me “I needed you”? And I thought of the verses in John 15: 9-17, the new command Jesus gave us: “Love each other as I have loved you.” God needed me to follow this command and to love others as Jesus has loved me. Yes, even though I am broken and miserable, God needed me and even called me “friend,” for God needed me to be transformed into a new being, to follow his command to love one another as God has loved me. To wipe the tears, to clear the mind, to bring back the lost soul, to regain dignity, to have strength to stand alone again, to face the world out on my own, to find home, to have hope even at the end of the world, to speak truth and to see eternity on a high pedestal. God needed me to do so many things!
May you remember the words in this song, and remember that God’s love is a two-way street. You are not only loved by God but also needed by God. Remember God’s love can be illustrated as a “need” and we need to be like the “YOU” in this song.
May this song a great reminder of God’s love in our life, and may you find God’s love and keep in mind that God needed you to experience this love and then to follow and to love one another as God has loved you.
God is with us all the time. May God bless his words and bless us. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.