Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 13, 2012

John 15:9-17
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.

You will forgive if I am unusually straight-forward this morning, but in time, I think you will see the purpose behind all of this.  There are a few reasons, of course, for this level of frankness, but the most central of them is that I do not want you all to miss the point, so incredibly important is it.  It would be easy enough to do, because we just heard Jesus use a lot of words that we seem to hear in church and nowhere else, words like “commandment, “abide,” and this strange language about bearing fruit that will last.  And, yes, we could certainly explore these concepts by means of other stories and images, but I am afraid that this would delay the inevitable, would only push back what needs to be accomplished and in the end not really get us any nearer the truth of what is being presented.  Indeed, the whole point might actually be that what we have just heard is so very real, so very deep into our own realities that to speak in analogy would be to obscure the point.  But this is already getting complicated, so let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Yes, I guess this is what I want you all to know with such incredible urgency that there is not the time for other stories, no matter how whimsical they may be.  Yes, I want you to know this: the faith with which you have been gifted, the faith that was poured over you in your baptism, the faith that you receive from hearing these words and partaking of this meal, well, I scarcely have the words to use to explain the incredible importance of such things, but alas I will try.  For among these very churchy sounding words that we hear today is a reality of incredible importance, and it is the reality of what faith means, what form faith may take in our lives.  Yes, in today’s Gospel reading we hear Jesus say this startling thing: “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from the Father.”  Here in the small hours leading up to his arrest, to a group of disciples who will soon abandon, deny and finally betray him, Jesus says this most astounding thing, these disciples are his friends.  These ones who will continue to squabble over who is the most important and powerful, who will soon abandon the Good Shepherd who has chosen them, it is them who are called friends.  And what is more, it is not just anyone who calls these disciples friends, but the very Son of God, the whom John reveals is the Word of God made flesh.  Yes, the creative force that animates and enlivens the entire cosmos, this is the one who has now proclaimed friendship with the disciples.  That reality, in and of itself, takes a lifetime to contemplate and enjoy, but there is more to it.  What exactly is means by which this friendship is realized?  Well, it is this: that Jesus has revealed all of the Father to the disciples, and because of this, because Jesus has withheld nothing from them, nothing of what he and his Father share in the bonds of the Holy Spirit, the disciples are now to be considered his friends.  And this, then, gets to the urgency that I spoke of just a few minutes ago, because what Jesus is here describing, this friendship with God, this was not just for those first twelve.  No, this friendship is yours through the faith that you have been given and this is the urgency.  For what awaits you here is a gift too wondrous to tell.  The faith, after all, that you have been given, this faith has made you not just a child, but indeed after the language of John, a friend of God’s.  And what is more, the fullness of the Father through all eternity, the light that called light into being, the perpetual joy and love that marks the life of God, this is literally all yours.  For Christ has not withheld anything from you.  There is nothing, nothing that Christ shares with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit, that has not now been given to you through your baptismal faith.  The full glory of the Father has been revealed to you, and perhaps there is nothing more glorious than the fact that this Father, in Christ, has named you as a friend. 
And the reason, of course, why I say that there is urgency here is that this knowledge  has a profound impact on the way we live, on what the fruits of our lives may end up being.  Because you now live in Christ, live in the full glory of divine friendship, you, you yourselves, you participate in the life of God.  This is what faith means.  Faith means that you have been swept up into the vast expanses of God’s own life; everything that the Father shares with the Son, this is now yours, for the Christ has called you his friends. And far from being some abstract mind-game that has little bearing on our actual lives, this friendship is something that we can take with us from this place, for this is a reality that will impact us down to our molecules.   Yes, for this friendship does not stay here, but it goes with you when you leave this place, and it is out of this friendship that we may bear fruits that will last.  For the very things that you have been revealed to you, these are the very things that feel in such short supply in this old world of ours, things like faith and hope and love, these gifts that you have received from the Spirit.  Indeed, in a time in which there is so much fear, so much cynicism, think of how deeply you are needed in this world, no matter where your work or home-life has placed you.  For everything you now do, be it working on plumbing or teaching our youth or raising children or working in an office, all of this you do as a friend of God, you do as one who has already been chosen and secured by the Christ who goes before you.  And that means you can do this work not as one who is captive to fear, cynicism and suspicion, but as one who know that deep and abiding peace of the Father’s friendship, which means that you do not need to fall victim to the fear and cynicism that can so easily swallow us up and keep us from genuine love of all whom we meet.  Yes, because you have been called God’s friends, you may now seek out the lost and the lonely, those who are struggling to fit in or those who might need a word of hope or an act of comfort. For you are the Father’s friends, how absolutely astounding is that?
Oh, no doubt, we will do this in such a way that still bears our brokenness and our fear; this side of heaven, we will not love as perfectly as we should, nor we will trust as purely as we would like, but the reality of divine friendship remains.   And we lose sight of this reality often, and we give ourselves too easily to the dark forces that constantly swirl around us.  In this, we are shrunk by fear and sin, and our neighbors tend to disappear as we fight for our own survival.  Yes, we have a remarkable tendency to forget just exactly whose we are, which is what it means to confess that we are indeed sinners, but fear not.  For even when this happens, when the forces of fear and cynicism begin to encircle us and this divine friendship is overshadowed by human fear and guilt, we need do but one thing, and that is to come this place, to come to this table, where we are again refreshed by the eternal friendship of God and again become who we really are, in the midst of a fellowship, an abiding, that has come about not because of anything we have done, but because of the gracious gift of Christ crucified.  Perhaps, then, you will understand the urgency behind these words.  That in, with and under all the cracks of your lives, you have been named Christ’s friends, and who wouldn’t want to hear that as urgently as possible?  In Jesus’ name, amen.  

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