5/10/2015 Sixth Sunday of Easter Text is John 15:9-17; 1 John 5:1-6.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dick needs Jane and Jack needs Jill and Tom is Jerry’s chum.
Need we mention Mutt and Jeff and Tweedles Dee and Dum?
Sherlock Holmes and Watson were as thick as any thieves.
And don’t forget that Adam was a bosom friend of Eve’s.
Like ham and eggs and curds and whey, good friends go well together.
They’re salt and pepper, fish and chips, and stars ‘n stripes forever.
Yes, friendship is a fact of life from Shreveport to Shanghai.
As Orville says to Wilbur, “It’s the only way to fly.”
This little Cunningham poem seems to sum up the joy found in true friendship – a joy found in a relationship of shared experiences, and mutual love and respect. It is the type of relationship that Jesus wants each of us have with him and everyone else he calls friends.
Friendship is a byproduct of our connection to Christ. It is a relationship that begins with God and then expends to our relationships with others. God comes first and the way that we know God is through his love. Our response to this love is to return it back to God. And that we do, not by praying or worshipping or giving money to the church (even though all these things are good and right to do). No, we return God’s love by sharing it with others.
Jesus tells us: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, abide in my love…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.
No ordinary human love will do when it comes to fulfilling Jesus’ command. We are not dealing with lust. We are not dealing with a desire to hold onto or possess, nor are we talking about a love of things like money or power or prestige or even Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Ice Cream. What we are dealing with is a love which first and foremost mirrors God’s love toward us, the life-giving love given us as God sent Jesus into the world to be the sacrificial lamb through which sin is washed away forever.
On this Mother’s Day, I can think of no mother who would willingly send a child to his or her death in order to save a friend, let alone an enemy. But our heavenly Father was willing to do so in sending us Jesus. This is the how strong his love is for the whole human family.
This love, which we have been freely given, we are to freely give away to others. This love is not indifferent to the cries of those in need. In this love we use a listening ear and act in kindness, even to the point of sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others. This is a privilege we have as beloved children of God. This is a joy that we have in friendship. When we love someone in this fashion, we are kind not because that person has been kind to us or will be in the future. We extend kindness because God has extended a kindness to us that we neither desire nor deserve.
Jesus put it this way: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit…” This means that we have been chosen by Christ, chosen to receive God’s loving care and chosen to love others with the love we, ourselves, have received from our Lord who laid down his life for us all. We have been chosen! We have been chosen to receive God’s love even before we were a twinkle in our mother’s eye AND we have been chosen to share that love with others – even with brothers and sisters who get on our nerves, parents whom we never seem able to please, children who challenge our patience, and friends who come to us with their problems at just the wrong time.
As strange as it may seem, giving up our own interests and wants and bending busy schedules for the sake of a friend whom we see often is sometimes harder for us to do than loving those who are distant. George Eliot stated it elegantly in the novel Middlemarch as he pointed out: charity toward others increases in direct proportion to the distance of miles between us and them. So, perhaps, charity really should begin at home as love’s greatest challenge may be giving ourselves over and over again to the people to whom we are closest: humbling ourselves, denying our need for power over them, thinking of them with same care that we think of ourselves, expecting nothing in return for our kindness toward them, and finally, being willing to die for them, both physically and emotionally.
Sadly, none of this is easy as our capacity to love is limited. We cannot enlarge our hearts and love can be transient. Love can be lost. Children can go bad, spouses can die, loyalties can change as new relationships are formed. But this is not so with God. God has a big heart and God’s love is forever. When love is put in its proper place, rooted in Christ, it is comforting and sweet. It acts like medicine for Jesus, our most intimate friend, knows us better than we know ourselves and in spite of our shortcomings, his love for us will never change. This love heals our sin and helps us to discover a love that wants nothing in return, but is content to seek what is best for others.
The proper place for love is in God who, in turn, is about the business of making us loving. He has chosen us as friends to share his love with those closest to us. And in Jesus he has given us two commands – that we love God and love our neighbor. The two commands are actually flip sides of the same love coin. For, we obey one by obeying the other. And we experience one as we experience the other as the love of God through love of neighbor that comes from the love of God. This intricate balance between love received and given is rooted in Christ.
This is God’s gift to us – the joy of love and friendship. It is the source of life, found in God’s son who willingly laid down his life for us whom he calls friends. May God fill you with his love so that you may love others with the love you have received from on high. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.