Sunday 9 May 2010

Our Friend and Brother

Address given on the 6th Sunday of Easter, Rogation Sunday, 9th May 2010 at Puckane Church, which the Catholic parish has kindly allowed the Killodiernan congregation to use while repairs are made to their own.

‘You did not choose me but I chose you’, says Jesus to his disciples.
These are perhaps the key words from today’s reading from St John’s Gospel (John 15:9-17). They contain a wonderful spiritual truth: it is not we human beings who choose Jesus – it is Jesus in his grace and love that chooses us – Jesus whom we believe to be the Son of God.

The whole reading is an amazing passage, so dense with meaning! It’s well worth reading and re-reading and pondering on, for what it reveals to us of the relationship between Jesus the Son of God and ourselves as his disciples. You might like to take out your Bible sometime at home and look again at John Chapter 15, and reflect on it.

Here are some of the things that occur to me when I do so.

Jesus calls us to joy.
‘I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete’, says Jesus.

Christians are meant to be men and women of joy, not wreathed in gloom with long faces. We are sinners of course, but redeemed sinners. How can any of us fail to be happy when we walk the paths of life alongside Jesus?

Jesus calls us to love.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’
, says Jesus.

Sometimes we live as if we are sent into the world just to compete with one another, to quarrel with one another, or even to fight one another. But Christians are sent into the world to show what is meant by loving our neighbours as ourselves.

And the love Jesus is talking about is not a soppy, sentimental love – it is a flinty, self-giving love. The test he gives us is this, ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. That is the love that Jesus lived and died for – that is the love he calls us to share with one another.

Jesus chooses us to be his friends.
‘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’, says Jesus.

Jesus was a teacher, and his disciples called him ‘Master’ as a term of respect. He taught them how to live as God’s people – to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves – as he still teaches Christians today, in words and actions which echo down the centuries to us.

But here he tells the disciples they are more than servants to him as Master. They are his friends – his partners in doing his Father’s work – and down the centuries he still chooses those who follow him to be his friends.

Jesus offers us intimacy, intimacy with himself, but also with God, who we should not see as a distant stranger but as our close friend.

Jesus chooses us to be his ambassadors.
‘I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’, says Jesus.

He does not choose us to live a life retired from the world, but to represent him in it.

He sends us out to be advertisements, to bear fruit which will stand the test of time. The way to spread Christianity is to be Christian, to show others the fruit of a Christian life; not to argue others into faith, or worse still to threaten them into it, but to attract them into it.

Jesus welcomes us as his brothers and sisters, sharing with him in God’s family.
He taught us to pray to ‘Our Father in Heaven’. If we share the same father, then Jesus must be a brother to every one of us, and we too are God’s children.

And Jesus gives us the rules for maintaining harmony in God’s family: ‘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’.

So, in conclusion:
Jesus models for us what it is like to be God’s Son, by his life and ministry, by his death and resurrection, and through his words recorded in the Gospels – he is a constant spiritual presence with us in every age.

Jesus chooses us, chooses us to be his joyful, loving friends, his ambassadors, brothers and sisters in the family of God.

And this is just what we need, I believe, to flourish as human beings, because it answers a deep psychological need that we all share – we can only truly love God and love one another if we first feel specially chosen ourselves.

Let me finish with the much-loved prayer of Richard of Chichester, an English bishop and saint of the C13th – it is a gem of Anglican spirituality, capturing the joy of being chosen by Jesus:

Thanks be to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ
for all the benefits Thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults Thou has borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
may I know Thee more clearly,
love Thee more dearly,
and follow Thee more nearly,

day by day.