Love and obedience Sermon, Easter 6B,
Sunday 6th May, 2018. St Petri Pastor David Preuss
John 15:9-17 Jesus calls us his friends9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: love each other.
I’d like you to think for a moment of your most special relationship. It might be with your spouse, child, parent, a good friend, or even your dog? What makes it so attractive and special? Perhaps knowing you are loved and respected by them, you understand each other, you can do things and go places together, you can confide and share intimate details of your life, be yourself, there’s trust acceptance, a reliance on each other etc. But, as we all know, even the best relationships can turn sour, with disappointments, misunderstandings, rejection. Love can so easily turn to hatred, I hope that doesn’t happen to your good relationships. But I think you’ll all agree. We life in a imperfect world of imperfect relationships. And that’s why it’s so hard for us to comprehend a relationship that is perfect in every way: No anger, disagreements, or personality clashes: rather, perfect harmony at all times. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it.
But the good news for us today is: It is true. It’s the relationship God the Father has with Jesus. And even better news for us, is Jesus makes us recipients of the same perfect love he shares with the Father. This is what he says. VS 10, if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my father’s commands and remain in his love. What I find a little bit confronting about that statement, is the command to obey. We’re not emotionless robots who readily obey at the push of a button. We like to do what we want to do, not what others want us to do. And we certainly don’t always want to do what Jesus wants us to do. And so we sometimes baulk at this word Obey.
In our text Jesus really emphasises that we obey his commands in the same way he obeys the Fathers commands. He mentions it 6 times, and it’s always mentioned in conjunction with love, which is mentioned 7 times. There’s this inseparable connection between his love and obedience to him.
The trouble is “obey” is often seen in a different light than love. I.e. the boss says “you obey me or you’ll get the sack” sounds real lobbing doesn’t it? Closer to home, for me anyway, creep over the speed limit and you get hit with a $300 fin. Obedience can be forced from fear and threats. IN the discussions I’ve had with young brides preparing for marriage, it’s often been said “I Love him I really do, but I can’t obey, no way.” It’s seen as a negative, as unfair, as demeaning as burdensome.
So how do we reconcile the love of Christ with obedience to him? Or does obedience play no role in my Christian life, because I’m saved by grace, and that’s all that matters”. And Praise God, that’s true. I am saved by grace, It’s one of the outstanding teachings of our Christian faith. We can’t do a thing to gain our own salvation. So where does that leave obedience in our relationship with Jesus? That’s the probing question for today. I’ve mentioned some of the seemingly negative aspects of the word obey, but my challenge today is to convince you, as does this text from John’s Gospel, that to obey Jesus is the most positive response to his love you can possibly have, and it leads to the best possible relationship with him. It makes no sense whatsoever to say, I believe in Jesus, I really love him, but then totally ignore his directives for Christian living and do whatever we please. That’s not a good witness to Jesus. But if we allow Jesus love to keep flowing through us, we will radiate and reflect his love to others. Think of a solar pane. It works so effectively when it soaks up the sun. But when it’s clouded over, when the panels face away from the sun, when it becomes dark, it can’t function. Same with us, when we turn away from the love of the son, when our life becomes clouded over with other things. When we are tempted to move into the darker areas of life, you know what I’m talking about, away from what Jesus commands, we can’t be immersed in, or empowered by Jesus’ love. He never stops loving us, but sometimes we block out and ignore his love.
So it’s the love of Jesus, that inspires and stimulates obedience from us. If he was a tyrant, if he punished us every time we did wrong, if he was mean and unfair and exploited us, we definitely wouldn’t want to obey him, we’d be afraid of him, and that would be a very bad motive for obeying. But Jesus perfect love for us casts out all fear. It’s when we see the reality of the love of Christ, especially as we see him suffering and dying for us n the cross, that’s when we are moved to obey. He says “the greatest love you can have is to lay down one’s life for a friend. He’s referring to himself isn’t he. This is the essence of the Christian faith and the heart of Jesus love for the world.
This God who came to us in the flesh, and who has given his all for us, has chosen us to e his friend. We didn’t choose him, but he chose us. How incredible is that when we stop and think about it. We have been chosen by the divine, all powerful., all conquering, ever loving, healing, all seeing, all knowing forgiving, faithful creator of the universe, to be his intimate friend. His purpose is that we can bear much fruit, fruit that will last. Being filled with his love is what equips us to be as Luther puts it, “little Christ’s,” in an oft times loveless world. Taking time out to ring up, to encourage a person, visit those who are stuck at home, help them in their need, provide for the poor, befriend the lonely. Stop complaining about the world we live in and instead Pray fervently in the name of Jesus for the world. This is how we obey Christ and bear fruit here at St Petri, and everywhere else, by being a little Christ to the other.
Please don’t think of obedience to Jesus as joyless, monotonous, drudgery. Jesus says, I’ve told you these things so your joy may be complete. As one reads the New Testament one can’t help but be impressed by the disciples, who defied death, and endured various trials with and inexpressible joy that Jesus had risen from the dead. Paul and Silas were locked in chains, but you couldn’t shut them up from praising the Lord. They had a joy this world can’t give. This joy comes as we realize, the truths that the Father shares with Jesus, now belong to us. What a treasure we have.
One more thing. Jesus promises: “you can go to the Father and he will give you whatever you ask in my name.” That doesn’t mean we get everything we want, but we will get those things that are according to his will. And the closer we are in our relationship with Jesus the clearer his will becomes. In conclusion, the positives John speaks of regarding Jesus command to remain in and share his love, are inexpressible joy the joy of knowing he has chosen us to have an intimate Friendship with him, he’s given us the ability to bear fruit, and the promise that we can ask anything according to his will and it will be granted. When we obey Jesus, we remain under the protection of his love, rather than the danger of our rebellion!
And please know this, and I speak as an expert on disobedience. When we do disobey, we can always go to Jesus as a friend, confident he will forgive us. That’s the power of the cross. My prayer for each of us, is that we continue to be recipients of Jesus’ love. Please show me your warmest smiles as I tell you again” Jesus has chosen you to be his friend in the most perfect of relationships, forever. Amen.