a Homily for Easter 6B
Text: John 15:9-17
Last week’s Gospel pericope ended with verses 7 and 8 which read:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and be my disciples.
Which flows into this morning (vv. 9-11):
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 abiding in love and this keeping of commandment is in light of the pruning we heard last week. Which brings up a really significant tension over what we call providence: In describing God as a divine, other-worldly vine grower, then God is shaping us—doing something to us.
Then we get this treatise on abiding and keeping commandment. Suddenly, the focus shifts to us. Our future is made by us.
Here we start to dip our toes in the waters of the historic church fights over the nature of God. The position that people have no control over their lives is attributed to the followers of John Calvin, one of the principle reformers. Today, when someone argues that we have no free will, we call him or her a Calvinist.
But this pericope doesn’t really seem to be about free will as we know it. It is about a way of living.
In verse 15, Jesus says:
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.
The Greek word is more accurately slaves, not servants. “I do not call you slaves any longer.” Speaking to His disciples he says that they were slaves. But not anymore. They are liberated because they know what God is doing.
Well, do they? Really? They haven’t said “yes, we get it!” Jesus tells them that they get the mission. He is saying they are ready.
We still get a command from Jesus, even though we are no longer slaves and that command is to love each other as Jesus has loved us. That is generous, sacrificial love.
This is the simple, radical core of God’s mission that is so hard for us to keep. Loving each other deeply and generously.
As much as these two readings deal with our relationship with God and Jesus, with the pruning and the slavery and the commands, it is also about growing and blooming and bearing fruit. In fact, it is really all about the fruit.
Our pericope ends with Jesus saying
“I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
His purpose is to bring the love, the sharing of love and that it might be done by His followers. This is how Jesus undertand’s God’s mission: that Jesus might reveal to us our mission, not complete that mission Himself.
Dipping back in the providence pool, briefly; this is Jesus’s response to the classic question about God: why doesn’t God just fix things? Because it is our work. Jesus’s sacrifice doesn’t change that. His coming clarifies it.
So the greatest love, as Jesus describes it, is sacrificial and for the other person. It is not love so that we might receive love, but loves so that they might receive love.
So do we understand the mission? O yeah we do!
Love, love, love!
Selfless, generous, and sacrificial. And I’m going to tell you where it can start.
4) I sent out worksheets with the Easter letter a month ago. I’ve printed extras if you need another. Pray about it, fill it out, and bring it back in two weeks for Pentecost. It is a worksheet to work through what we’ve done and what we are called to do.
3) Give financially to our ministry together as St. Paul’s. If you aren’t giving, then pray about it and determine what needs to be given. If you are giving, keep up-to-date with your pledge and consider if there is any more that can be done. Our ministry here as we know it depends on this and even greater generosity.
2) Give more time. We are all busy, but carve out an extra hour or two per week for a new ministry. We are starting five new ministries that need all of us: stewardship, prayer & pastoral care, new member, formation, and worship. Please consider which one (or two) you are most called to join. We’ll be getting them off the ground in June.
All of this is about directing our focus to best embody that call to love. How best we love one another, every person that walks in, and every person we meet beyond those doors.
1) Choose to love the people near us more generously and sacrificially.
That is our mission.