Sunday, 9 May 2021

Love and Biscuits

John 15:9-17 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

 It's said that when St John was a very old man, having written Revelation and got back from exile in Patmos, he was too old to walk, and to do much talking. So his disciples had to carry him to church, and all he ever said was, "little children, love one another" because that was all that was worth saying.

Jesus's key commandment in this Gospel, and especially in this long passage set at the Last Supper. Love each other. 

And you think to yourself - it's so hard. You look across the socially-distanced distance to your fellow-worshippers, or (if viewing this sermon via a screen) you think about the people whose little heads you saw on the last Zoom meeting, and you think - really? Them? Even the one I fell out with over who got the last biscuit last time we had coffee back in February 2020? I've been really upset about that biscuit. A whole year since they had that biscuit. And they don't even like Hob Nobs like I do. I really wanted that biscuit.

But Jesus starts with these surprising and remarkable words: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you."

Let's stop for a moment and consider that.

According John chapter 1, "the Word"  was with God in the beginning. Before anything was made - because in fact everything that was made, was made through the Word. And then the Word became "flesh", and lived among us - as the man Jesus, called Christ. Jesus tells us that the Father loves him, and so he loves us in the same way.

Quite astounding is that. That the love the Father has for the Son through all eternity is now opened out to us.

I like the fact that Jesus then refers to the disciples as his "friends". Somehow that makes the idea of his love for us more personal. We're not kind of passive recipients of God's love, like we might be fond of a goldfish or a hamster. As Jesus's followers we're his friends. There's a feeling of mutal love there. Mutual respect almost. It's described in other places as an adoption - in Galations and Romans. We are not like pets or servants. We are like children or friends.

The love God expects us to share - it's not the kissy-kissy kind of love. It's not even the sort of love where you do something for them because you like them. It's more focused, more deliberate - a love generated in your will, as much as in your heart. It's easy to love the people we find lovely. It's often but not always easy to love the people in your family. But the person who pinched the last Hob Nob? 

But God expects to bear fruit - remember the grapevine from last week? -  bear fruit that lasts, in what we do and what we say and how we treat people and how we give time to God and each other. Kind of regardless of what we think about them. So forgiveness and kindness. There's a difference between forgiveness and Christian loving kindness and being exploited, by the way. We are called to forgive. But we're in God's image and we should be able to expect to be treated with respect.

 Lastly - in all we do. Remember that Jesus chose us. That's good news for me because sometimes I'm up, sometimes down. If my relationship with God depended on me, it would be a terrible car crash. Sometimes we feel so close to God - sometimes we feel like God doesn't exist or God must hate people like us. Instead of which, Jesus chose us. And if he chose us he was right. Doesn't really matter how we feel on any given day. It's not about our emotions, it's about God's faithfulness.

You notice that? All this flows from God. Jesus loved us as the Father loves him - so we must love each other. He chose us - so we can go and bear fruit. All that flows from God is grace. And all the fruit we produce is a response. So love God. Love each other. And love will be the thing that lasts forever.

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