Easter 6A

May 8, 2018

Our Friend in Heaven

John 15:9-17


9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 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. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. 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. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.


What we have this morning is some more of the prayer that Jesus prayef for us – his followers, near the end of his earthly ministry. And he prays that we will experience the best that God has to offer. His prayer was prompted by the fact that this world can produce some bad circumstances, and it’s good to hear Jesus pray that things will go as well as they can for people like us who are trying to live faithful lives. It was his imminent departure that prompted this prayer, and I think we all understand what was going on here. Praying is what God-trusting people do when things get rough here on earth.


I think there are a couple of good messages for us to get from this passage. One good instruction is for us to recognize and to embrace the value of prayer. I don’t think Jesus would have modeled this act of pouring his heart out to God if this wasn’t an important thing to do. Of course his options for action had largely evaporated at this moment in his ministry. Praying was about the only thing available for him to do at that point in his ministry, but he had chosen to be in the situation he was in, and praying is a form of action. It’s what we do when we don’t know what else to do, and the truth is that it might be the most important thing we ever do.


The effort to communicate directly with God is not an insignificant thing to do. We don’t have access to the mechanics of what goes on when we pray to God, but we know it’s an important thing to do. It’s a healing thing to do, and it’s good that there is something we can do when we realize there’s nothing else we can do. Just this week I heard one of our good members, Virginia Metzger, talk about how she had endured one of the most unpleasant medical tests she had ever had. She had to lay on this hard x-ray table for about 2 hours while they ran a series of x-rays. She said it was miserable to lay on that table and she considered sharing her displeasure with whoever would listen, but she decided it would probably be more effective to talk to the good Lord. I think she thought she had made a good choice.


I think it’s often when we encounter situations that leave us feeling totally out of control that enable us to discover the value of prayer. I told our Bible study group the other night that I was sure my prayer life became richer when my oldest child went off to college in Colorado. I think up until that point I had maintained the illusion that I could keep her safe, but the realization that there was going to be a thousand miles between us destroyed that fantasy. I came to understand that the only thing I could do was to mention to God to watch over her each day, and I took a good amount of comfort in that. And that exercise helped me see all of the other things that were out of my control that I could share with God.


I don’t understand how this business of prayer works. I can’t explain what happens when we say to God the names of the people we know and love and care for and worry about, but Jesus did it, and I guess that’s all I really need to know. That makes me trust that it’s a good thing for us to do as well. In a sense it’s an exercise in trusting God to take care of the things that are out of our control. And we’re doing something important when we exercise trust in God.


The other thing that Jesus brings up in this passage is the value of friendship. Jesus speaks of himself as our friend. And this is such a good thing for us to know and to embrace. I don’t guess there’s anything more valuable than a friend. As Jesus says, there’s no greater love the love of someone who lays down their life for a friend. I don’t guess any of us know if we have that kind of love for our friends until the situation presents itself. Certainly there are such opportunities that present themselves. Men and women who find themselves in combat situations are occasionally faced with those decisions and there are many stories of people sacrificing their own lives for the safety of others. And it’s not uncommon for law enforcement officers to make those kinds of decisions. It’s a sad and beautiful thing when people actually give up their lives for the sake of others.


But most of us come to understand the value of friendship through smaller acts of self-giving love. And those small acts can be really big. A surprising act of kindness from a friend when we are feeling lonely or in pain can be a powerful thing. And apparently there are a lot of people who aren’t feeling those acts of kindness from others. Just this week there was a story on National Public Radio about the number of people who suffer from loneliness.


There was this national study produced by a medical organization that examined the extent of loneliness in our nation and more than 50% of the respondents reported that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes. We tend to think that it’s the oldest generation who become isolated and alone, but the surprising statistic from this latest study was that it’s the youngest adults who suffer from the greatest sense of loneliness and isolation. This is a really sad thing to me. It’s terrible that there is such a significant number of people in our nation who are feeling so lonely. I don’t know the solution, but this is a problem that needs attention.


Few of us have the heroic opportunity to lay our lives down for a friend or have benefitted from the heroic friendship of someone else. More often we come to know the value of friendship when we lose a friend, and I’m sure we’ve all felt that pain on some level. Sometimes this sort of pain comes when we lose a friend to death, and losing a friend in that way is a significant source of pain, but it’s a more insidious source of pain when we lose a friend through the breakdown of a relationship.


I’ve got such a broken relationship in my life and it haunts me. I guess I’ve probably got more than one ailing friendship, but I have a truly broken relationship with someone that I once enjoyed great friendship. I won’t burden you with the various dynamics of our relationship and what I think occurred that created the rift between us, but I don’t know how to fix it, and it’s such a sad thing to me. I miss being in contact with him, and it reminds of how painful it is to lose a valuable relationship. And I feel very powerless to fix it.


Which brings me back to the value of prayer – the thing that we can do when we don’t know what else we can do.


And not only is our friend Jesus, on hand to hear what we have to say – he is already in prayer for us. Even when we don’t have the wisdom and discipline to turn our hearts and minds to God – Jesus is praying that we will find our way to the source of true life. He doesn’t want us to be distracted by the illusions of life that we so often find in this world.


This word, abide, comes up several times in this morning’s passage. I don’t think abide is a word I ever use in daily language, but it’s a good word, and I like what it conveys. It indicates the presence of a mutually beneficial and satisfying relationship. I think about the only time I use this word is when I’m doing a wedding. During the exchange of rings the vow that goes with the giving of the rings speaks of the ring as a token and pledge of their constant faith and abiding love. It’s a good thing when people abide together. Criminals don’t abide with each other – they conspire, but they don’t abide. People who abide with each other want to be together and take pleasure in the company of the other.


There’s probably something about abiding that we can learn from our pets – they are often good at abiding with us. They can seem so happy just to be close to us – and their presence gives us a lot of comfort.


The good news in this passage is the way in which Jesus speaks of his desire to abide with us and for his invitation for us to abide with him. It’s a relationship that moves us to exhibit this particular kind of love that Jesus made known to us. It’s that kind of love that we often think of parents as having for their children. Children and their parents aren’t always known for wanting to abide with each other, but there is some powerful abiding that goes on between parents and their children. I think it’s a good example for what Jesus wants us to understand about how close we can be to the heart of God.


God continued to abide with Jesus in his death, and God has enabled Jesus to continue to abide with us through the resurrection. This abiding love of Jesus is still in our midst, and we can make room for his abiding love to be in our hearts.


This is not an easy thing that Jesus brought into the world, but it is the best thing. It’s the source of true happiness, and it’s the avenue to a more abundant life. It’s also something that the world is starving to find. There are a lot of lost and lonely people in this world who don’t know that they have a friend in heaven and who haven’t found a good friend on earth. I’m thinking our work as disciples of Jesus is actually pretty easy. We don’t need to perform miracles – we just need to be nice to one another. And that will feel pretty miraculous to some people.


There is some powerful abiding to be done, and through this abiding love of God in our midst a lot of healing can happen and good news can be spread. We have a friend in heaven, and he’s praying that we will make new friends on earth.

Thanks be to God for the abiding love of Jesus Christ and the opportunities we have to experience and to share that most precious thing.


Thanks be to God. Amen.


One Response to “Easter 6A”

  1. Earl Says:

    We love to communicate with our friends so why not communicate with our best friend Jesus ?

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