The Sixth Sunday of Easter; Year B (5/10/2015)

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.

Complete Joy

Norman Rockwell,  1937

“I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” So went the old Vacation Bible School song we sang every summer at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota. Those were joyful times. I grew up in an idyllic small Midwestern river-town. I was surrounded by family members who loved me and friends I enjoyed. I was healthy, and comfortable, and had a strong sense of God’s presence in my life. It was an easy and enjoyable time — not exactly Rockwellian, but not far from it. In those days I came to think of joy as the emotion I felt when heading up to the golf course for an early round with Dad, or jumping into Lily Lake for a late-evening swim.

It was years later that the subsequent verse, “I’ve got that love of Jesus, love of Jesus down in my heart…” caught my attention. I came to realize that joy — complete joy — does not come from experiencing a life of comfort and ease, but instead is the consequence of a life shaped by the sort of love that Jesus demonstrates for us.

These past couple of weeks, as we’ve continued our Easter  celebration of the Resurrection on Sunday mornings, our Gospel lessons have carried us back in time to the Thursday before Christ’s death and resurrection. He gathers for supper with his closest followers. (How would Norman Rockwell have depicted this scene?) He knows that “his hour had come to depart from this world.” (Jn. 13.1) He knows that one of his own, Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, is about to betray him. (Jn. 13:2) And so he takes off his outer robe, ties a towel around himself, and begins to wash his disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:4). His self-giving Passion has begun, and the character of his love is becoming clear. It is a love he freely gives to the world (Jn. 10:18) It is a love he both shares with us and commands us to practice (Jn. 15:12)

The sacrificial love of Jesus is what most clearly depicts the Christ-life. The invitation to sacrificial living is what calls his followers forth in faith and in life. And here’s the truth about joy: complete joy comes from following this call to sacrificial living. Jesus is clear in verse 11: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Complete joy comes not from the commitment to make our personal lives the best they can be. Complete joy comes from the willingness to give of ourselves, to make a difference in the lives of others, and in doing so to experience the presence of Christ.

That’s why Len Sweet says, “Every television commercial you have seen is an argument that the Gospel isn’t true.” Complete joy doesn’t come from driving the best automobile or wearing the best clothes or eating the best food or taking the best vacation. Complete joy comes from living the Christ-life. Complete joy comes from giving of ourselves to others.

May you know joy — complete joy — the joy that comes from giving to others.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is “less than ideal” about Jesus’ life on Maundy Thursday; the day before he dies?
  2. How is Jesus able to experience complete joy even in the midst of his difficulties?
  3. How do these words help the disciples know complete joy instead of fear and despair?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is my society’s definition of “complete joy?”
  2. How do these words of Jesus give me a different image of complete joy?
  3. When I have experienced the complete joy that comes from faith and generosity?