Sermon for the 6th Sunday of Easter/Year B/John 15.9-7
Last week we heard about the importance of abiding in Jesus like branches on a vine so that we can bear much fruit.
This week we go on to find out what that fruit is – and it turns out to be love.
Love is the fruit of the relationship between Jesus and the Father, and love is the fruit of our relationship with God.
There are different ways to respond to this.
Some of us might focus on the words, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you”, “you are my friends”, and “I have chosen you”.
These words offer rest for the weary, a promise of acceptance, healing for all of our inner wounds and insecurities, an assurance that everything will be OK.
All we need to do is accept the gift of love and abide in Jesus.
Others of us, though, might find it hard to take these words in. We might’ve been failed too often by those who claimed to love us.
We might’ve been hurt, rejected or abandoned by friends, family or partners, and if this happens too often the idea of abiding in love sounds shallow, unrealistic and unsustainable, and letting ourselves be loved becomes a heavy risk.
Here, we need patience with ourselves and courage as we try once again to open ourselves up to love.
And we need people around us who will understand and support our journey, without judgement or trying to rush us.
We might also find it helpful to remember these words of Julian of Norwich:
“Pray, even if you feel nothing, see nothing. For when you are dry, empty, sick or weak, at such a time is your prayer most pleasing to God, even though you may find little joy in it. This is true of all believing prayer.”
Then there’s the romantic idea of love presented to us in films and books, in which love means finding the perfect person and living with them in perfect harmony forever.
In this idea there are no imperfections to irritate us, no disagreements, just constant happiness.
But this idea lasts only a very short time when faced with real life and so we can end up rolling our eyes and becoming cynical about love.
Love, though, is not some sentimental idea or constantly being blissfully happy.
Love is beautiful, but not because it’s pretty and happy.
Love is beautiful because it goes all in.
It’s willing to take on the ugliness of life, the pain and suffering, to accept others as they are and not how we wish they would be.
It stands by us when relationships end or when loved ones die.
It sticks with us through accidents and tragedies, sin, broken dreams and hurt.
It sits quietly with us when we cry, feels for us, and prays for us whether we know it or not.
Jesus shows us what love looks like throughout his life.
He kneels down and tenderly washes the dirty, worn feet of his companions.
He accepts and welcomes adulterers, oppressors, and outcasts of every kind.
He shows compassion, defends the vulnerable and offers healing.
He loves and forgives, even when betrayed by his closest friends.
He gives up his life in the most gruesome, humiliating way.
Jesus’ love is not pretty or polished. But Jesus’ love is profound.
Sometimes we forget to go past the words of Jesus about how much he loves us to the part about being appointed to bear fruit.
The blanket of God’s love for us is guaranteed and ours for the taking, but that gift becomes fullest when it’s shared.
We practice sharing that love here in our church community, and then go out to share it with the grumpy neighbour, the family member who drives us up the wall, and all the people we meet in all their wonderful, quirky, confusing and annoying variety.
We might get hurt, we will certainly get it wrong sometimes, but being loved and loving others is what we’re made for, and we will always have the love and friendship of God to sustain us as we grow and bear fruit.