Abide In My Love
May 5, 2018
Verse: John 15:9–15:17
Christ Lutheran Church
May 6, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Abide In My Love
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you observe my commandments you abide in my love; even as I Keep my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I Speak to you so that my joy might abide in you; and that your joy may be full. John 15:9-11
If we want to hear today’s gospel aright we need to lay aside our normal theological definitions because what works in Paul or the other gospels, does not work here.
John is unique!
Mysterious from cover to cover.
But he waxes even more mysterious in chapters thirteen through seventeen which, along with chapter six, are his Eucharistic chapters. To borrow from Winston Churchill St. John’s gospel is “a mystery, wrapped inside an enigma,” but not one intended to trip us up! But quite the contrary a mystery given so that we should suckle on it as contentedly as an infant at his mother’s breast. So that by these words we might drink in the Joy that resides in Jesus himself, which in turn will make our own joy complete.
Yes, that is a concern of Jesus!
He is concerned that his disciples should be full of joy even on this night when the “friend” he broke bread with betrayed him. (Psalm 41:9) Even on this night when the kings of the earth, and the powers of hell, conspired together to usher him into the world of the dead. Even then! Especially then! Jesus is concerned that they should share his joy and abide in his love!
Jesus is concerned about you, too! That you should abide in his love, and his joy abide in you. But being full of joy is not our default condition, but we are filled with fear instead. Fear of poverty, suffering and loss. Full of despair and self-pity. Bristling with addictions and sinful desires. But worst of all we are so full of ourselves that we are empty of Jesus; empty of joy.
But Jesus came into the world to fill the vacuum with his own joy; and by giving us his own love. By placing down the Life that he is for us, and there is no greater love than that!
This is why we give special honor to those whose vocation it is to risk their lives for ours; and why this verse is often heard at their funerals. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man should place down his life for his friend.”
Jesus is the Man! You are the Friend! And so if no one has ever truly loved you as you long to be loved, want to be loved, need to be loved, let it go! Let it go if you can and rejoice because the greatest love ever given has been poured out for you. And the joy that comes with it will surprise you like you have never been surprised before.
And so let us take a closer look now, to discover what Jesus means in today’s gospel when he talks about abiding in his love, about commandments, and about prayer.
When the Lord tells us to abide in him he is referring to his earlier saying, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.” Jesus is the source of our life. Jesus is our Nourishment. And as we enter into Holy Communion with him we “bear much fruit.” That is to say we grow bigger, plusher, lusher, fatter and fatter feeding on divine love until we have “gained” the weight of God! That’s what happens when the baptized feast on his Word as we are doing now; and when they feed on his Body and Blood as we will do shortly.
This, in turn, makes us heavy with sacrificial love for one another but it is no burden, no burden at all as St. John writes. (1 Jn 5:3) This is not the theoretical love that pseudo intellectuals chatter about in coffee houses. But the love that Jesus has in mind is the love that changes diapers in nursing homes and glorifies God for the privilege. It rejoices in washing feet, and finds fulfillment in becoming the servant of all.
And what are the commandments that our Lord speaks about here? Not the Ten Commandments, but the "two commandments". The "two great Eucharistic commandments" that he gave on the night in which he was betrayed.
First: “Love one another just as I have loved you!”
And secondly, “Do this in remembrance of me!”
But these two are really one as St. John makes clear in his epistle. (1 Jn 14:21) In it he teaches us that it is impossible to Commune with a person you do not love; or to love a person with whom you will not Commune -- because the love that Jesus talks about here is made manifest at the altar; practiced in the world; and there is none greater!
And, finally, what does Jesus mean when he says, “so that whatever you should ask the Father in my name he will give you.” What is not being said here is that: If we obey the 10 Commandments then God will answer our prayers. That is not a teaching of Scripture in St. John or anywhere else. But a flat denial of the grace of God who: “causes his sun to shine, and his rain to fall, on the good and the evil alike.” (Mt. 5:45) And who “sent his Only Son into the world so that we might live by him.” (1 John 4:9)
But since these chapters of St. John are concerned with Holy Communion we should most likely hear the Lord’s saying about prayer to refer to the Eucharist itself which was first instituted, and is still consecrated by “the word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim 4:5) What the church calls “the Eucharistic Prayer.”
It seems most likely that Jesus is promising here that the gift of his Body and Blood, which the church prays for each Sunday, will continue! That it is an irrevocable “covenant of love” that the Father will continue to give us until end of the age – when sacraments will no longer be needed. No longer needed because we will see our Lord as he is, be filled with his joy, and abide in his never-ending love. Amen.