Sermon: Someone to Love

May 2, 2021

Acts 8:26-40
1 John 4:7-21

by Eric Anderson

The task was clear. Build a nest.

“All right,” thought the i’iwi, “but how exactly is one supposed to do that?”

She had spent a significant amount of her life in a nest, of course. She didn’t have much memory of the early days, when she’d still been inside the egg. When she’d been newly hatched and later as a fledgling, she’d been more concerned about the next meal and learning to fly than the engineering of an i’iwi nest. After she’d left the nest, she rarely returned to it.

Until now, when it was time to build a nest of her own. She could begin to anticipate the eggs that would come, and they would need a nest. So she went to her old tree to find her parents’ nest, but in the year or so since she’d hatched, the winds and the rains had scattered it to the forest floor below.

She tried to take a look at other nests, but i’iwi don’t much like other i’iwi around their nests, and the other birds chased her away. At her own chosen nest site, she gripped a piece of ohi’a twig and said, “Well, I’ve got to make a start somehow.”

She pushed it into a space near the top of a tree where small branches from the trunk made something of a bowl where they all came together. The twig stayed put.

With some help from her husband, but not much because he was chasing other i’iwi away (I’ve got to wonder when those birds might rethink that approach to things), she piled up the twigs and mosses and lichens and bits of tree bark. She laid them carefully, and if something seemed precarious, she’d shift it to a better spot before placing the next. Sometimes, for all her care, things fell apart, but just a part of it and she could fix it and move on. By the time the eggs needed a place, there was a place for the eggs.

Somewhat later, when things had settled down somewhat among the i’iwi and birds were visiting one another again, her mother appeared to meet and greet her grandchicks. After a fair amount of laughter and wonder, mother and daughter sat together on a branch.

“I wish I’d asked you how to build a nest,” said the daughter.

“Why?” asked her mother. “You’ve got a fine nest there.”

“It would have been easier if I’d had some guidance.”

“I suppose that’s true,” said her mother, “but I have to tell you that very few of the i’iwi ever do it that way. Truthfully, though, you already knew nearly everything you needed to know.”

“I did?” asked the daughter.

“Yes,” said the mother. “You knew it must be done. You knew it could be done. You had some ideas of the things you could use to do it. All that remained was to learn how it could be done, and you did that. You learned that for yourself.”

“I did, didn’t I?” said the daughter.

“Yes, you did.”

“Don’t you want somebody to love?
Don’t you need somebody to love?
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love?
You better find somebody to love.”

Darby Slick wrote those words in 1965 for his band The Great Society. It was a song about loss, because Slick was missing an ex-girlfriend, but it was also a song about action. This isn’t a “falling in love” song. It’s an “I want to love somebody” song. The first is about being overwhelmed by feeling. The second is about caring for somebody else.

“You better find somebody to love.”

Most of us know the song from Jefferson Airplane’s high energy recording from the album Surrealistic Pillow (side question: should I start titling sermons something like, “Surrealistic Pew Cushion?”), with Darby Slick’s then sister-in-law Grace Slick on that powerful lead vocal. The drive of the music moves the active love of the lyric. It’s all about romance and relationships, but it overflows with the power of dynamic, engaged devotion.

The author of the First Letter of John wasn’t writing about romantic love, but he would have definitely understood the power of dynamic, engaged devotion.

John didn’t tiptoe around the obligations of Christian discipleship.

“Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” That’s verse 11. It repeats “Let us love one another” from verse 7, notes that those who don’t love one another don’t love God in verse 8, observes that if we love one another God lives in us in verse 12, considers the presence of God’s spirit within us through verse 16 where we find that God is love so love better be abiding in us, reminds us of the power of love over fear, states that we love because God loved us first, declares loving God without loving neighbor a lie, and finally returns to the main point that we’ve never really left, which is, in verse 21, “The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”

So basically: “Love one another.” First John can get somewhat convoluted, but by the time he reached this point of the book, he was rolling. “For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” Oh, yes, chapter four was not the beginning of this theme for John, it was its climax.

To quote Darby Slick, “You better find somebody to love.”

Judith Jones writes at Working Preacher, “To know God’s love is to overflow with God’s love. How can we possibly love God while we hate God’s beloved? Seeing ourselves as God’s beloved means seeing our sisters and brothers as God’s loved ones too. If we have come to know God’s love, we have seen for ourselves that it is unearned, undeserved, utterly free. Although God’s love is without conditions, it is not without consequences: God commands us to love one another as God has loved us.”

You better find somebody to love.

Who? Well, there are lots of opinions about that. John himself simply used the word adelphon, translated in the NRSV as “brothers and sisters,” which seems to imply other believers in Jesus. Writing about four hundred years later, Saint Augustine of Hippo dared to extend it. “Extend thy love to them that are nearest, yet do not call this an extending: for it is almost loving thyself, to love them that are close to thee. Extend it to the unknown, who have done thee no ill. Pass even them: reach on to love thine enemies. This at least the Lord commands.”

It’s not all that hard to find somebody to love, is it?

Loving well, that is a harder matter, and we may learn something from Philip’s encounter with an Ethiopian court official on the wilderness road that official was taking home from Jerusalem. Observe the sequence of events. Philip approached the chariot and heard the Ethiopian reading Isaiah aloud. Philip asked what is a pretty basic question of theological and spiritual discernment: “Do you understand what you’re reading? What does it mean to you? What does it say?” The Ethiopian welcomed the conversation. He was looking for an opinion, because let’s be honest, Isaiah 53’s image of the Suffering Servant isn’t easy to interpret. Philip offered a radically new way of understanding that passage in the light of Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection. The Ethiopian was impressed enough to seek baptism into this growing community of Jesus’ followers, and to go on the rest of his way home rejoicing.

How to love? Well, ask after the important things of someone’s life. Wait for them to tell you what they need – assumptions about needs can be really insulting – or if you think you might see a need but they haven’t said, ask. Offer what you have to share – not somebody else’s sharing, but yours – and don’t put up roadblocks to their full inclusion in the community of Jesus Christ.

You may find yourself loved and changed, too. Debie Thomas writes at, “…I believe we miss some of the beauty and significance of this story if we see Philip merely as a teacher or an evangelist. In my view, Philip is also a student, and what he learns from the eunuch has a great deal to tell us about the life of faith, post-Easter. In his Spirit-led encounter with the Ethiopian official, Philip learns that the resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Everything he knows about insiders and outsiders, piety and depravity, identity and belonging. The eunuch isn’t the only person in the story who undergoes a conversion; the Spirit leads Philip to experience a conversion as well.”

Jesus said it. John repeated it – over and over again, he repeated it. Darby Slick wrote it. Grace Slick sang it. All you’ve got to do is… do it.

“You better find somebody to love.”


Watch the Recorded Sermon

The video above includes the entire service of May 2, 2021. Clicking “Play” will jump to the beginning of the sermon.

One of the blessings of preparing a sermon is the freedom to depart from it when the Spirit moves.

Photo Two Hearts by Perennis – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Categories Sermons | Tags: , | Posted on May 2, 2021

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