Now we haven’t even been in town for a year—but the experience was a walk down memory lane…
As we took in photographs and the artifacts, we enjoyed imagining life as it used to be—as many of you experienced it in times past.
But at the same time, the experience was bittersweet. Many businesses and places of worship and recreation that were once so precious to this community aren’t around anymore… And many of the people with whom we shared our lives are gone. We can’t help but grieve the fact that so much of what is beautiful and good in life does not last forever.This was the situation for Jesus and his disciples in our Gospel lesson for today.
Today’s passage is part of what is referred to as “Jesus’ farewell discourse.” He’s already eaten his last supper, and his arrest is just hours—if not minutes—away. Jesus’ time of living and ministering among his disciples has come to an end.But as Jesus says goodbye, he makes one thing very clear: his relationship with them is not going to end. Even though he will be absent from them in body, he will remain with them. He says:
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love… This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”As we hear these words, let’s remember that Jesus is not laying down conditions that we must meet in order to be his friends. His love for us has no conditions. Becoming a friend of Jesus does not happen by a decision we make; nor do we have to prove ourselves worthy of Jesus’ love. it is Jesus who chooses us as his friends. We are Jesus’ friends solely on the basis of Jesus’ gracious love for us.
Because of that, there must be a response from us to so great a love—our response to Jesus is our friendship. Friendship takes commitment—and to be Jesus’ friends, we must be committed to obeying his commandments. And his command is that we love one another as he has loved us.This is the way in which we abide in Jesus’ love. This is the way live as his friends.
And as we know, loving our neighbors as Jesus commands goes far beyond being nice. Love is about serving. It’s about meeting our neighbors’ needs with the same urgency as we meet our own.It’s giving whatever is in our capacity to give so that others may be built up.
We’re not seeking something for ourselves… We’re not out to try and win someone else’s affection—nor are we attempting to influence others to believe as we believe or live life as we live it…Being a friend to Jesus is all about learning to see the face of Jesus in the faces our neighbors in need—and serving that neighbor as we would serve Jesus himself.
That is the way in which we abide in Jesus’ love. That is the way live as his friends.And as we love our neighbors, our friendship with Jesus grows—because we are spending time with the one who calls us friend. Jesus is always going to those people who need him most—whether they realize it or not. So when we love our neighbors, we are with Jesus.
On the other hand, if we do not live in love, Jesus will (very quickly) become a stranger to us. And it’s not Jesus who would distance himself from us; it is the other way around. Choosing not to abide in love; and choosing to withhold our love and our gifts from others is, in effect, turning our backs upon Jesus.This is not a life worth living—because this world has nothing to offer to us that will last. Wealth, health, and power are great; but they can disappear in the blink of an eye, just like life itself.
Jesus wants for life to be so much more for us—a life that is everlasting.Jesus says to us “I have appointed you to go and bear fruit; fruit that will last.” What that means for us is that no deed done in love will ever be in vain. Anything you do for your neighbor in love will have eternal significance. When you feed a hungry person; when you befriend a lonely person; when you share your faith with an unbelieving person, you are doing God’s work in healing this world. You are doing work that will last forever.
And even as we become so easily overwhelmed by the ways in which are world is changing that are not good, God’s redemption of the world is happening all around us. God’s is bringing all that is chaotic and evil in this world under his control. Suffering and sin are not going to endure; Jesus is going to endure. And today, Jesus calls each and every one of us to join him in filling this world with his love. Jesus is calling us to bear fruit that will last.A life lived for others is a life worth living—because we are living as the persons God created us to be. A life lived in love is a life lived in Jesus Christ; and in Jesus Christ, we have a life that will last forever.