I have Called you Friends

Kenora                                                6th Sunday of Easter

Year B

9 May 2021

Acts 10:44-48

Psalm 98

1 John 5:1-6

John 15:9-17

God of abiding love, you dare to call us friends. Take our fragmented hearts, command them to love, and make whole our joy, which is our life, reborn in Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us. Amen..

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Love. What an interesting word.

The devotion, posted to Facebook for today, from the publication Forward Day by Day, comments that to love is both the easiest and yet it’s the most difficult thing to God; and I have to agree.

If you look at the language, the words that we use to describe our current situations in the world, we are able to declare states of war, or hostility, or times of conflict, but I don’t recall us declaring times of peace, or times of love between parties. Do you?

We gravitate to the language that describes the negatives in life, in our world rather than positives. We talk about what we don’t have, we focus on what it is we feel that we lack instead of what fills our lives with light and love. We speak in language of scarcity rather than in words, feelings, and language of abundance.

So, in that light, then, if we’re going to insist on looking at what it is that we just don’t have enough of, looking at it through the language so scarcity, then Jesus words to us would come across as a bitter pill of being required to love as we are loved. But not as we are loved by each other, rather as we are loved by God, by Jesus.

So, here it is in a nutshell. If we are unwilling to love others as we are loved by God, then it’s a chore to love.

And I’ll have to say it’s probably not a black and white issue. We’re capable and willing of loving those who love us, those with whom we have close connections such as family, spouses, children, and so on. We’re even capable of loving those we call friends and acquaintances.

But there’s the stretch: How easy is it to love absolute strangers? How easy is it to love those whose cultural bearing and values are different than our own?

How easy is it to love those who for whatever circumstances are homeless and suffer from issues of addiction, of alcoholism, and the trust issues that grow out of that situation?

And on one level this comes down to our ability to love ourselves, our true selves, the self who looks back at us when we look into the mirror.

What guides me in all situations is the poem “The Man in the Glass.” I received a copy from my grandfather, and I refer to it often, to myself, in my daily patterns and paths.

The poem goes:

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
and the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
and see what that man has to say

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
who judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts the most in your life
is the one staring back from the glass

Some people may think you a straight-shooting chum
and call you a wonderful guy
But the guy in the glass says you’re only a bum
if you can’t look him straight in the eye

He’s the fellow to please never mind all the rest
for he’s with you clear up to the end
And you’ve passed your most dangerous difficult test
if the man in the glass is your friend

You may fool the whole world down the pathway
of life and get pats on the back as pass
But your final reward will be heartaches and
tears if you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

And this hits on much of what Jesus is telling us, as well.

“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.” (Jn 15: 15b-17)

We are loved. We are, by nature, creatures of love, and to deny that, twist that, cheat that nature harms ourselves more than it will ever cause harm to the world and the structures around us.

We started looking at today’s text, at Jesus’ command to love as we are loved, and we’ve already compared that give of abundance to the common use of language of scarcity.

How much love do we need? How do we hold onto it? Because language of scarcity for those who have abundance is expressing the fear that the resources in our lives are finite. That to run out of what we think is necessary is so terrifying that we allow that fear to dominate absolutely every action, thought and decision of our lives.

But love is a gift that we receive daily. It’s a gift that grows when we share it. And when we think using the parameters, the language of scarcity we see such things as priceless as precious gems: something that can be lost and not easily replaced.

But that’s not what God, what Jesus is telling us today.

Rather, as we share it, love grows. As we live in it love fills every action of our lives, and spills over to the world around us.

So, if this is the reality of living a language of abundance: the knowledge that we’ll always have enough, the trust that we’ll never lack what it is we truly need, then we are free to share what we have with those who might not know how abundance changes our lives, and has the ability to change theirs as well.

If this is true, then we need to ask ourselves why do we not share it with those who will even treasure a morsal of love from those of us who know that the fount of living water will never cease.

Jesus tells us “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.” (Jn 15:11-12)

Although Jesus phrases this as a commandment, he does that because if it’s left to our devices, our foibles, then we’ll set it aside until things become perfect, ideal, in our own minds.

So, Jesus commands. He tells us it’s a condition of fulfilling his commands to each one of us, a show of whether or not we’ve listened to his teachings, or just let them roll off our back like water off a duck.

And from our perspective, it’s a delight, a joy to receive Christ’s teachings and to live into them in the sense of gospel.

But for those for whom it’s considered a chore, then these words of love from our Lord and saviour become the law. And in reality, our hearts are ruled by such distinctions.

Gospel, in our minds and hearts sets us free. Free to be of service to our neighbour. Free to acknowledge that we are loved by God, and so love others with that same feeling of joy. Free to declare peace to the world along with fulfillments of acts of love in all directions.

Law, on the other hand binds us more completely than being grounded by covid restrictions. If we look at the degree of interpretation and discussion that the Hebrew people have dedicated to the interpretation of God’s law, we can see it like that degree of stricture. Knowing just how much one can and cannot do in a given circumstance. Some may see it as freeing that way, but when the command is to love, then it holds us back instead of freeing us.

Now, I acknowledge that the distinction between seeing Christ’s words as law, or as gospel is important for our minds, but in our hearts, Christ reigns and Christ’s teachings guide every step. And today that step is to love; not as we love each other but as we are loved by God, and so we’re freed, then to love the whole world as God loves the world, and all that the world contains.

Jesus tells us: “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.” (Jn 15:15b-17)

What abundance! What joy! What freedom!

What love!

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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