Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Significant Words

Sunday's gospel lesson (John 15:9-17) is full of significant words and concepts, each of which deserves its own sermon. One can't (or certainly shouldn't) preach on them all. So, in preparation for Sunday, think about these words. Think about what they mean to you. Imagine what they might have meant to Jesus and to his disciples. Trust that there is an opportunity for the deepening of our faith at the points where they overlap and where they depart.

What does love look like? What does it feel like? Yes, it is patient and kind, but it is more than that. The love of which Jesus speaks is the kind of love that enables someone to lay down his life for another. Love is giving. Love is yielding. Love seeks the benefit of the other rather than the self. It does not insist on its own way. God is love. Love unites the Father and Son and Spirit. Love binds us to God and to one another.

What does it mean to abide--to dwell, to linger, to bathe--in love? We are asked to soak ourselves, drench ourselves, in Jesus' love. That is where we begin. That is where we remain. To abide is more than a home to which we return at the end of the day just as love is more than a baseline for our operations. We are grounded in that love. Our life draws its source from that love. It is our substrate. It is the material from which we spring. It is that from which we can never be separated.

Thou shalt not... Do this or else... Let us kneel together for the Decalogue and responses, which begin on page 317 in the Book of Common Prayer. Commandments are the dictates from on high. They are the rules, the laws, the unbreakable boundaries. But this one is different. This is Jesus' commandment--that we love one another as he has loved us. To keep that commandment is to abide in his love. Those who keep that commandment are named by Jesus as his friends. This commandment is given so that we may love one another.

Are you happy or joyful? What's the difference? Does God want you to be happy or joyful? What's the difference? Joy evokes in my heart a sense of satisfaction that happiness doesn't always bring. Happiness is fleeting while joy persists. Happiness can be defeated by the storms of life, but nothing can shake us from the joy God bestows in our hearts. God, let your people sing with joy even in moments of desperate unhappiness.

Social media has changed the meaning of friend. Well, maybe not changed it but diluted it. Still, friend feels like such a twentieth-century word--a fashionable, post-WWII invention. Of course, friendship is as old as humanity, and it meant as much--probably more--to Jesus than to us. What does it mean to call Jesus your friend? What does it mean for Jesus to call you his friend?

This time of year it's strawberries. Soon it will be blackberries and then watermelon. It's apples, too, but those are good all year long. What does it mean to bear fruit? What does it mean to be fruitful? Jesus has set us apart to bear fruit--lasting fruit, fruit for the kingdom. Fruit has a season. Fruit is to be picked. Fruit is beautiful to behold and delightful on the tongue. What about us? Is that what kind of fruit we are?

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