EASTER VI - B - 18 JOHN 15. 9-17
Today’s gospel begins with love and ends with love. Jesus is telling his disciples that he is loved by the father and the love the father has for him he has for us.
John’s gospel is often referred to as the “love gospel” for obvious reasons. The author uses the word frequently on the lips of Jesus, more often than not when he is addressing his followers. It is not just any “love” Jesus is referring to but “divine” love - love that comes from God that usurps our human love.
God’s love stands in mark contrast to our human love as our love for one another is often based on conditions, whereas God’s love is unconditional. It is a love we cannot have apart from Him, and it is a love we cannot know nor can we share without our obedience to God’s commandments.
Jesus tells us plainly “if we keep his commandments, we will abide in his love.” Moreover, we shall know true joy. Sounds simple enough does it not. All we have to do is to love God and share God’s love with each other. However, we all know it is not that simple.
As fallen human beings, we have a tendency to give our love to those who love us in equal measure and refrain from loving those that differ from us, or those that have in some way offended us. Thankfully, God does not give us his love based on our response to it. Thankfully, Jesus did not withhold his love from the world because of those who rejected him, betrayed him, and eventually turned him over to be crucified.
We think of loving another human being in terms of relationship. However, relationships get broken and we fall out of love with that person. In essence, we take our love back and keep it until we find another to give it to based on their giving us theirs. Again, it is not that simple this loving one another as Christ loves us is it.
We want to love the way we want to love and that’s it. Perhaps that is why the medieval writers changed the scripture to read that God is friendship and the one who abides in friendship abides in God. The idea of friendship is a lot easier to get a handle on that loving one another as God loves us. Don’t you think?
In today’s gospel, Jesus elevates his followers from servants to friends. Friendship is higher than servant hood. Servants obey their masters out of fear or a sense of duty; friends obey out of love and an internal desire to do what is good and right.
Jesus’ point is clear; one cannot love God and disobey His commandments. To love God is to obey Him. Jesus shows his friendship of us in his sacrifice; we in our obedience. What does it mean to be a friend of God? The Quakers got it right hundreds of years ago when they began to refer to themselves as “A Society of Friends.”
That is what the Church is - a society of friends. Such friendship in Christ makes us companions at the Lord’s Table. It brings us into a communion of people banded together because God chose us and loved us first. As always the invitation in this friendship is not ours but his.
As friends of God, we express our friendship in our greeting one another when we gather to worship God, when we exchange the Peace, and when we kneel next to each other before God’s altar as equals. We are not members of Christ based on hierarchies or status.
That is how we express it here in this sacred space. Our friendship with God, however, is not meant to be hoarded among ourselves. How do we express our being a friend of God out there in the marketplace of life?
Each week at the conclusion of our worship, we are dismissed with these words, “now go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” The friendship we share here is one we have been commissioned/appointed to bring to others. It is meant to be a mission of joy, a mission of love.
It is the way we fulfill our having been chosen by him and loved by him first. It is the way we bear fruit that will last, by loving one another as he loves us.
Love is the badge, the outward sign, if you will, that identifies us as belonging to him.
The sign of the cross that was traced on our foreheads at baptism that identifies us as Christians in the eyes of God is not visible to the world or to one another for that matter. Thus, Jesus has given us a sign that is visible.
When we express our love of God outwardly in word or deed, we are announcing to the world that we are Christians and that we belong to Him.
Keeping God’s commandments keeps us abiding in His love and enables us to love one another with the love God has for each of us even when we would otherwise chose not to love.
Fellowship with Jesus, fruit bearing, and prayer, are all dependent on obeying His command to love. Those who have this spirit of loving obedience are open to receive and understand the revelations of the Father and to become more fully human.
That is why Jesus came - to elevate us from being merely human to being fully human; to give us freedom and joy, to bear fruit that will last. Whether it be in terms of a single life changed because we have loved someone as Jesus loves us, or in turn of a single decision that we had to make that changed us or someone else for the better.
Perhaps it was a single task we had to perform, through which, though we couldn’t see it at the time, the world became a different place. All of which have made both the lover and the beloved more truly human.
The test of our loyalty to Christ and our loving obedience to God remains the simple, profound, dangerous and difficult command Jesus gives to his friends in today’s gospel: “love one another.” AMEN+