The Sixth Sunday of Easter (5/13/2012)
Lessons:Acts 10:44-48 Psalm 98 1 John 5:1-6 St. John 15:9-17
Prayer of the Day: O God, you have prepared for those who love you joys beyond understanding. Pour into our hearts such love for you that, loving you above all things, we may obtain your promises, which exceed all we can desire; through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
[Jesus said,] 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.“
St. Mark 15:9-17 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Abide in My Love
Jesus has such high hopes for us, doesn’t he? Just in this one passage, we hear him say:
- Keep my commandments.
- Abide in my love.
- Know complete joy.
- Love one another as I have loved you (in other words, being willing to sacrifice even life itself for those whom you love…).
- Do what I command.
- Go and bear fruit.
I have to admit: I’m not that optimistic. This seems to be a remarkably challenging vision for what it means to live as one of his followers. I don’t know how I would find the energy to stay focused on these commands all through the course of a day, much less the moral strength to suppress my own human instinct to live in a very different manner.
Of course, it is important to remember when he spoke these words. John places them in his mouth on Maundy Thursday — late in the last week of his life, as he gathers with his disciples for one final meal together. As John tells the story, Jesus knows full well what is coming. He knows that one of them will betray him, one of them will deny him (three times), and the other ten will run and hide when the going gets tough. He knows that it will only be a matter of hours before anger, fear and self-preservation will replace love, joy, and fruitful obedience.
That is why he doesn’t present to them a grand vision for how to change the world. He doesn’t command them to eliminate hunger and poverty, find homes for every orphan, and appoint families to support every widow. Instead, he dials it down to two, simple, approachable directives: “Abide in my love, and love one another.” Like the branches that draw life from the vine in last week’s Gospel lesson (the section that precedes this week’s text in St. John), Jesus understands that our only hope to know love and joy in this world is to stay connected to him. As we experience that connection — as we abide in that love — we are transformed, and we become agents of his love.
This doesn’t mean that we escape our humanness (his close followers will learn that the hard way in the ensuing 36 hours). We continue to fall short. We continue to experience how anger, fear and self-preservation can drive love, joy and fruitful obedience right out of our lives. Yet it is the connection to the vine — the love of God that relentlessly pursues us, despite our best efforts to turn in other directions — that grounds us in a power that is not our own, and enables us to experience glimpses of God’s kingdom; glimpses of when the love of God in which we abide beaks through our resistance, and enables us to love one another with a Christ-like love.
So we abide in his love. We open our hearts to God through daily devotion and prayer, weekly worship, and gathering with brothers and sisters who share this sacred journey with us. And we pray that his love will empower us to love one another. Despite our resistance. Despite our ineptitude. Despite our brokenness. After all, it is his joy that makes our joy complete. Thanks be to God for that!
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- How do you suppose his disciples received these words on Maundy Thursday?
- What must they have thought, as the reflected on these words of his, after his resurrection?
- How might these words have shaped the life of the early church?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When have I experienced the love of God in my own life?
- When has God stirred me to love an other person?
- What might I do to strengthen my experience of God’s love?