Being Fruity

 This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, May 5 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The text was John 15:9-17,

It can be hard to make friends in a new place. We have lived here for just over nine years. I was pretty excited about already knowing people here. But, shortly after we came, Becca and Will moved! Then we got a bit closer with another couple and they moved! Then another female pastor and I used to hang out after our weekly pastors’ Bible study, and she stopped coming. However, the arrival of a clergy couple has helped. We’ve become colleagues and friends. I feel much less lonely, and this extrovert is grateful. I am also making friends outside church-related places: the Boys’ and Girls’ Club Pool and Zonta. 

The creator of the universe calls us friends, which is the most amazing thing. Friendship implies a give and take. Jesus completely upends the old ways of master and slave in the accord of friendship with himself, saying, “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” (v. 15). Friends share secrets with each other. Jesus shares his heart with us, and we can share ours with him.

I see a progression in this passage. God initiates love, which leads to joy, which brings us to the response of bearing fruit.

The old song tells us, “Love makes the world go ‘Round” and there’s truth in

that. The Creator, after all, is the source of love. But is it the Hallmark kind of love of which scripture speaks? There are people that are just difficult to love, let alone like. 

Loving people who are different and not just different but radically opposed is difficult. But that’s what Jesus calls us to, and then does. That’s what his disciples did. And that’s what Christians have done throughout every generation. Loving the seemingly impossible kind that costs us deeply isn’t optional (Andrea Kulik, livinglutheran.org). 

Jesus said, “My commandment is this to love one another just as I have loved you.” He has reduced the reference to the commandments to one single commandment. The disciples are to love one another as Jesus has loved them, not as they have loved Jesus. 

How has Jesus shown his love for the disciples? Their love must include a willingness to die for one another if necessary. This is exactly what Jesus is talking about here because he introduces the theme of his sacrificial death in the following verse.

It is not just the degree or intensity of the disciples’ love for one another that Jesus is referring to when he introduces by comparison his own death on the cross (that they must love one another enough to die for one another) but the very means of expressing that love: It is to express itself in self-sacrifice for one another, sacrifice up to the point of death, which is what Jesus himself did on the cross (cf.1 John 3:16).

Jesus continues, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” If the disciples are now elevated in status from slaves to friends, they are friends who have been chosen by Jesus, rather than the other way around.

In human relationships, when we first really connect with someone and realize we want to live the rest of our lives with them, and they feel the same way about us; isn’t there a deep, unexplainable kind of joy inside? How much more so when the God of creation stoops down to embrace and love us. 

Our Lord Jesus loved his disciples, even to death on the cross. He gave his life for them so that they may reside in his joy. After Jesus tells his disciples to live in his love, he gives this as the reason. “so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (v. 11). These verses are a summary of John’s ethics. The Jesus of the Fourth Gospel does not give a list of commands but summarizes all in the one command of love. 

Do any of you remember the song by the Hollies, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother?” It hints at the love Christians are to have for others. The title was inspired by an experience at the Boys Town orphanage. Father Flanagan, upon seeing an older boy carrying a younger boy with polio, inquired if carrying the boy was difficult. The older boy responded, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.” How can we carry one another in love, not as a burden but as a privilege of being one family in Christ?

There are a number of things commentators think fruit refers to in this passage. I believe it’s not just a personal relationship with Jesus, although that’s important. But it isn’t just me and Jesus having our own thing going on. We are to spread the news, the good news of God. We are to make disciples today as well. New lives in Christ is the fruit of abiding in Christ. 

The last two sentences are powerful, “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 am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” The passage begins and ends with love. 

How many of us have been hungry for something to eat? Looking around, we remember there’s fruit in the refrigerator. We pick it up and it’s spoiled. Fruit has a short shelf-life. Yet, Jesus speaks of “fruit that will last.” This is a different sort of fruit. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, God’s own provision, that we may grow as the family of God.

We can let God’s love make change in our world. We operate out of God’s peace in our lives, which spreads to friends and neighbors, which works its way through other relationships. It's like a web that spreads. 

And what about the unrest all around us? As we enter into these situations, that peace, love, and joy come with us. It’s in us and emanates from us to those around us. We can bring peace to trouble in Christ’s name. 

We are doing this now by feeding hungry children through Five Loaves and Two Fish. Because of a grant, we are able to add more programming for the Promise Children project in Honduras. Gale can tell you the details, but she listed off all the various things we have and will have in place in Honduras when we talked the other day.  

In our coming and going, we affect our world. It is the “butterfly effect,” which “is a broad term for any situation where a small change causes larger consequences” (wikipedia.com). Let us be the change in Jesus’ name, let us be that change. 

Amen. 

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