6 May 2018 – Sixth Sunday of Easter
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
John 15:9-17 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=392359719)
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 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. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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. 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. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
“If I could only have one food
To eat for the rest of my life?” Gordie asked.
“That’s easy. Pez.
Cherry flavor Pez.
No question about it.”
(“Stand by Me”, 1986. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092005/)
These lines are from one of my favorite movies of all times,
“Stand by Me” written by Stephen King and directed by Rob Reiner.
The move is about a writer who recounts a boyhood journey
With his closest friends
To find the body of a missing boy.
I believe this movie appeals to me so much
Because it captures my childhood in a nutshell
(except for the missing body part).
“Stand by Me” describes my growing up,
Especially between the ages of 8 and 11.
My family lived in Sinclairville, New York
Midway between Jamestown and Fredonia.
My closest friends were Tommy Jordan and Kevin Kochersberger.
Our foil was Brian, who lived next door to Tommy.
Though we used Brian as comic relief,
He had an intimidating older brother.
Tommy was the son of the undertaker.
Kevin was the son of a college professor.
Brian was the youngest son in a broken, dysfunctional family.
Of course, I was the son of the Methodist preacher.
We roamed the neighborhood,
Built tree houses,
Raided neighbor’s gardens,
Slept outdoors under the stars.
We cleared off snow from local ponds and played hockey with shovels.
We caught crawdads in the creek,
Went sledding down the hill at the town park,
And spied through the bushes when ever Tommy’s father
Brought a stiff to the back door of the funeral home.
The 1960s were very good to me.
Like the writer in “Stand by Me”
We’ve all gone our separate ways,
Fallen off each other’s radar.
My friends of yesterday
Might still be only 3 degrees of separation by modern day Facebook,
But nothing can recreate that sense of friendship
That I experienced growing up.
We were palls, companions, playmates.
We kept each other’s secrets.
We got into trouble together.
We explored the world together.
We stood up for one another.
We were loyal to one another …
And your word was your virtue.
We wouldn’t have used this word at the time,
But we loved one another.
Indeed, friend comes from the Dutch vriend,
An Indo-European root meaning “to love.”
In John’s Gospel passage,
It should be noted that
Jesus begins with a different kind of love: agápē love. (Ibid.)
Agape, from the Greek,
Describes an unconditional love of God for his children,
A love that advocates, that acts, that wills
The good of another.
“As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you;
abide in my love,” (15:9)
Jesus teaches his friends;
Disciples from whom he will soon depart.
The relationship between the Father and Jesus, the Son,
Is that of agápē love,
A relationship that Jesus has attempted to replicate
Between himself and his disciples,
A relationship that Jesus instructs all disciples to replicate
Amongst ourselves and those who join our community.
Let’s get to it!
The context of this passage is vitally important
When it comes to describing Agápē love.
Jesus loves his friends even when they tried to hurt him.
He loved Judas,
As he demonstrated by washing his feet,
Immediately before Jesus foretells his betrayal. (John 13)
Jesus loved Peter,
Who’s feet he also washed,
Even as he foretells of Peter’s denial. (John 13)
Jesus also loved his closest friends:
John, called the beloved.
Jesus loved his friend Lazarus
So much so he wept for him
Before raising him from the dead. (John 11)
Jesus loved each of his disciples.
He prays for them immediately following this passage,
Right before he is arrested in the Garden. (John 17)
Jesus loved his disciples selflessly when he speaks of his future
“No one has greater love than this,
To lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (15:13)
The cross is the symbol for the supreme act of love
Between Jesus and his friends, his disciples.
The cross remains for us today that same symbol
Of Christ’s love for the world.
Jesus makes an important connection in his farewell discourse
When he speaks of his disciples as friends.
From the Greek, philia, philon, or friend, (15:13, 14, 15)
Friend means “tenderly loving, kindly affectionate.”
(Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, George Ricker Berry, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids MI, 1897, p. 105)
Jesus ties his message together with philía love;
Love between friends that is loyal, virtuous, even joyful!
“I have called you friends,”
“because I have made known to you everything
that I have heard from my Father.” (15:15b)
Jesus admits as much:
“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be complete.” (15:11)
If there is a common strand of
Gospel DNA that weaves its way through John
It would be love.
“God so loved the world …” (John 3:16a) drives to the heart
Of John’s message to the early Church.
You are loved,
Jew and Gentile alike.
You are loved,
Just as you are,
Saints, sinners, even the dead and resurrected.
You are loved.
You are loved as the Father loved Jesus.
God loves you so much that he sent us Jesus
Who willingly gave his life
That we might inherit eternal life.
Granted, commanding a friend to do something
Isn’t a very friendly thing to do.
That’s why you won’t find the Gospel of John
Full of Jesus’ commandments,
Or references to Jesus teaching
To uphold Moses’ Ten Commandments.
(Like can be found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke).
Yet, it is important to take note of the one exception in this narrative:
Jesus commands his disciples to love one another,
To be friends.
Love one another,
Just as Jesus taught and lived,
Just as the Father loved Jesus, his Son.
Loving others fulfills all other commandments.
One loves God when one maintains fidelity to God,
Mimics God’s work and rest habits,
And treats God with respect.
When you love your neighbor
You don’t steal from them, lie to them, or covet their stuff.
When you love your neighbor
You don’t sleep with their spouse or kill them.
Love is the fulfillment of all commandments.
Loving others is our Lord’s greatest desire.
Abide in that love.
Dwell in that love.
Make your home in that love and live in that love forever.
Just as God chose to send us Jesus,
So, too, has Christ chosen you to be his friend.
You were led,
Or are being led,
By Jesus to baptismal waters.
Baptism seals each of us eternally with Christ,
Uniting us as friends.
You’ve been chosen.
You’ve been chosen by Jesus.
You’ve been chosen by Jesus to be his friend.
You’ve been chosen to become friends with one another and with the world.
You’ve been chosen to become God’s love in the world.
Abide in his love,
And your joy will be complete!