Easter 6: May 9, 2021
Year B: Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
Today is Mother’s Day. It is a day where we are encouraged to obey at least half of the Fifth Commandment, “Honor thy father and mother.” There are mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, even great-great-grandmothers, stepmothers, godmothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, big sisters, mentors, role models, and all those who have been mothers to us.
There are quite a few mothers in this world, some great, some good, some good enough, and some just not so good. We certainly all have mothers in our lives in some way or another.
I had a mother for thirty-four years of my life. I came into her life when she was twenty-seven. She left far too early when she was just sixty-one. So I had her for just a little more than half of her life I was part of it.
But think of the emergence of a little baby. Of an infant who needs the love and the care and the relationship of a parent. And I think that’s what we’re hearing about in our readings today, in the Gospel. “Abide in my love.”
Abide in relationship with Jesus Christ and with God. Abide. Abide. It’s perhaps the closest analogy we have for the intimacy of the relationship of Jesus. That’s the relationship we’re called into having with Jesus Christ. Today’s Gospel lesson continues the beautiful discourse in the Gospel of John, where Jesus likens his relationship to the disciples, to a vine and its branches. It explains the relationship of God with Jesus and Jesus with us. The word that is repeated that I’ve already mentioned, which we have been going through in this season, is “abide.”
It means “stay” or “remain.” If you were speaking Greek, it’s the same word that you would use to tell someone, “stay right there and don’t move until I get back, it won’t take long.” It is also the same word as one might say, “Stay with me.” I find the New English Version of the bible translation particularly beautiful as it translates “abide” as “dwell”. Dwell with me. Be with me. Think of dwelling, not just the home, but dwelling in terms of that being all-encompassing, all being part of something or someone.
It’s an enduring metaphor “abide in my love”. We abide in the love of God, and our relationship with God is sometimes as complex as a maternal relationship or a paternal relationship.
God’s love is steadfast, but there may be barriers for us in perceiving, feeling, or understanding that love.
We often attribute things to God that are not from God, or we fail to understand the consequences of our own behavior and blame God, just as we might blame our mother. And Christ suffers the pain in seeing us embark on a path that will lead to their suffering or the suffering of others.
But Christ tells us, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”
Such a powerful statement and such a powerful state of being does not happen in isolation, or simply as an act of our own will. It is very closely related to a requirement that Jesus makes into a condition for love. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”
He also says, “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 think in order to love at least for us who call ourselves Christian in this world, we can’t have love and we cannot remain in this love without keeping God’s commandments.
And keeping those commandments can be difficult. Because it presupposes obedience, and this is something our culture rejects. Obedience is something that we chafe against, we reject. It’s not something that’s often admired. It’s thought of as for the weak, not the strong.
But think of Jesus Christ. His life was one of total obedience. Can anyone who knows or who believes the story of Jesus, call Jesus weak? No.
Jesus obeyed. He kept in constant connection with God through prayer, through communion. Even when he was abandoned in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the cross, he remained in obedience to the will of God.
So, think about this commandment that we must obey in order to abide in the love of Christ. Jesus now tells us directly from himself and through himself to others “Love one another” and what matters is how we treat one another.
It’s hard sometimes to abide in love. But the writer of the First Epistle of John testifies to this as well: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey [God’s] commandments.”
Obedience, loving God, does bear fruit. And that first fruit, that first Jesus is talking about is that we have joy in our life. And the joy of knowing thaw we are loved by God and by Christ and that joy comes from this state of being comes from this being loved and from the conviction as we hear in Paul’s letters that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. Christ has given that to us.
“And I have appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last,”
Remember the fruits that are borne and sometimes how hard it is to bear that fruit. We think of Paul, the apostle who lists the fruits of the spirit in his letter to the Galatians. This is a man who suffered immeasurably because of his love for Christ and his obeying the commandment of Christ. And yet because he knew that he was loved by Christ because he knew that Christ abided in love for Paul, Paul described the fruits that resulted from Christ’s abiding in love as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
These are not earned, they’re not taught, they’re given by the grace of Jesus Christ in relationship with Jesus Christ, and Paul had these things in abundance – a man who so easily could have been filled with bitterness and hatred.
That’s what I invite all of us to think about as we look at the world around us and we are saddened by what we see. I admit to my rage when I see the bombing of another girls’ school in a part of the world where girls are seen as secondary and in many ways unnecessary. I have to remember that we have Jesus Christ to give us this love and to help us bring that love to the world around us and to remember the emergence of another infant, the infant who was Jesus Christ who was dependent on his mother for nurture. This is how we can abide in love and know that we are loved by God in Christ Jesus and bring that love to the world. And bring it in full measure. All this we pray and offer in Christ’s name.
 John 15:9b, New Revised Standard Version
 Cf. John 15:9, New English Version
 John 5:16
 1 John 5:2, New Revised Standard Version
 Romans 8:39
 John 15:1
Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE.