6th Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2015
You can click on the link above to open the reading in Oremus Bible Browser.
This week’s reading is a continuation of the image of vine and branches from last week’s reading. Jesus is saying farewell to his disciples before his arrest and death, knowing that they will be terrified and confounded when he is brutally taken from them. We know that he will be back, resurrected and filled with new life to give them peace and finish sending them on the mission for which he has been training them all along. So in these chapters near the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus is trying to reassure them that they will find their real work when he is finally gone.
Last week’s reading imagined Jesus as the vine and God, his Father as the Grower. God tends and prunes and nurtures the vine into maximum vitality so that it will produce abundantly. He imagines his disciples as the branches which are also lovingly tended to be fruitful and flourishing in the care of the Grower, as long as they continue to be part of the Vine. “Without me, you can do nothing,” Jesus told them. He envisions this nested relationship of God and Jesus, Grower and Vine. One needs the other to produce the new Kingdom that God is bringing into being. It grows and flourishes in that love that has created it, one resting in the love of the other, neither existing without that love to nourish and sustain it.
We hear the same kind of love within love lifted up in the reading this morning. “As the Father has love me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” It sounds conditional as Jesus goes on, “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.” But I want to remind you of two things: first, you’re not going to be able to keep Jesus’ commandments as he has kept the Father’s commandments; and second; Jesus is the one who loves you as the Father has loved. God’s love is not conditional on our being able to live up to the standards of God or of Jesus.
What God wants is that the love that is lavished on us will change our hearts to see the world as God sees it: wanting all to flourish and thrive, and instead of living with poverty, hunger, war, and destruction. Jesus wants us to care the way that God cares, because we love the world that God loves. Keeping Jesus’ commandments to love as we have been loved is the opportunity to stretch beyond our hearts, turned inward on our own concerns, to see our mission as bringing in God’s kingdom of justice and peace. It is that transformation which moves us from being obligated and hoping that our good deeds will win us God’s approval to being Jesus’ friends and allies in changing the world into the world God longs for.
But the best part of this whole imagining is this: “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” and, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” As much as I struggle to be faithful to Jesus’ image of me – and of us as his body here in Prineville – changing the world through the love that has been lavished on us by God in Jesus, I know I’m going to be proud of the good things I’ve done, and forget all about the times that I’ve failed to live the thriving faithful life that Jesus envisions for me – for us – as his disciples in this day and place. On my own, I won’t choose Jesus, or the work that he has appointed for me. That’s why I need him to abide in me, to root me in this nested love between Father and Son and Faithful. I need to get a glimpse of the joy that comes from feeling at home in that love for which I have been chosen.
So here’s the thing: it’s about grace, that undeserved love of God that sent Jesus to be our physical brother, as well as the Vine on which we depend to keep us connected to God’s love. It’s about our gratitude for all the blessings that come to us in our community and in our work of nurturing the next generation, caring for the earth, seeing that all are fed and sheltered. We didn’t ask for God to choose us, God just did. We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but God gives it anyway. We are so privileged to know God’s love and God’s power to accomplish all that we are appointed to do and to be. How can we fail to flourish and to extend the love we have received to the world? How can we fail to experience the promised joy of being chosen and sent and bringing in God’s kingdom? Amen.
Now may the joy and peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.