Easter 6B John 15:9-17
Love makes your soul crawl out of its hiding place—Zora Neal Hurston
I have now preached on the gospel text for today three times prior to this moment. It is a fine example of never really coming to the end of a piece of scripture. There truly is so much to be found in it.
The word that may stand out the most when we hear this scripture is the world love. Maybe that is because Jesus uses it 9 times. It’s even enhanced by the other five times we hear the word love in the 1 John text.
Abide in my love. Such a beautiful thought. Such a wonderful invitation. A few weeks ago, we heard the 23rd Psalm and its reassurance that although we may walk through fear, we do not need to make our home inside of fear. Jesus’ words for us today are that we are invited to make our home inside of his love.
What does it mean to make our home inside of Jesus’ love? That’s a big question and I think we could spend our entire lives answering it. To abide means to accept, to remain stable within, to follow, to reside within and alongside. Where we abide is the place we make our home, put down roots, our center. Jesus invites us to put down roots in his love, make his love our home.
Love makes your soul crawl out of its hiding place.
Our world invites us to abide in anxiety; in a land of scarcity and fear. There is much to be afraid of these days. It would seem that there is much more scarcity to go around than abundance. Many of us may feel that every breath is coated with anxiety. Abiding in these things affects how we see the world, how we treat others, the decisions we make, our physical health, and every other aspect of our lives.
What kind of difference would it make in your life if, instead of worrying about what we should fear and who is to blame for whatever discomfort or suffering we experience, we sunk down our roots, built our hearts on top of and around an eternal, never ending fountain of love? No matter how much of those other things there are in this world, there will always be more of Jesus’ love by a thousand times over. And then some.
When I am working on a sermon during the course of the week, there are often songs lyrics or hymn tunes that pop up in my mind. Sometimes it’s even commercials or phrases from a novel or a movie that sneak their way into my head as I ponder whatever text I am to preach. Lots of things pop into our heads when we hear the word love, but for some reason there was one phrase that kept coming back to me.
You are worthy of love and belonging.
Now, this is a quote from a popular self-help writer and social worker, Brene Brown, and the full quote is: You are imperfect and wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging. In other words: we are going to make mistakes, and life is sometimes hard, but you are loved no matter what.
Even though I like Brene Brown and think she has lots of meaningful things to share with the world, I wasn’t so sure that a self-help phrase was a good explanation of the gospel. But the truth is, Brene’s work is rooted in her own faith and spirituality and I think this phrase, in particular, is connected to what Jesus is telling us.
You are worthy of love and belonging. I’m not sure about worthy because that word makes us think about something we’ve earned, but Jesus is telling his disciples and us that we are loved and we belong. Over and over in this text, Jesus says that he loves us, but the key phrase, perhaps the phrase around which all the rest grows is this one: you did not choose me, I chose you. All of this love Jesus has for us, all of the love that God has for the world, which is the reason Jesus is here in the first place, all of the lifetimes of abiding within divine, gracious love is not because of something we have done to chose God. We haven’t been so good that we’ve earned a place to abide in, it is Jesus who acts on our behalf.
It is Jesus’ love for us, for all of us, for the whole world; Jesus’ immeasurable, inconceivable love in his death on the cross and his resurrection to new life that brings us a life rooted in love. You are loved.
The other part of Jesus’ words in this lesson are about loving others. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. You are loved and you belong. This part is about what our abode is to look like; our home inside of Jesus love.
Remember that question from earlier? What does it mean to make our home inside of Jesus’ love? This is the beginning of the answer. Living inside of Jesus’ love means that we love one another as we are loved. We make mistakes and life is sometimes hard, but we are loved and we belong. We belong. You belong.
Most of the hurt in the world, the hurt we experience and the hurt we cause, comes from feeling like we are not loveable and that we have no place where we belong. And here, right here, today, now, Jesus is telling you, telling all of us that we are loved, not because we chose to follow God but because Jesus chose to love us to death, and we can make our home right here inside that love. And we belong. We all belong. And part of our job living in this house that love built is to love the other people who live here, too.
The motto of the Clean Slate House, the transitional housing organization that we support, is Love Heals. It doesn’t mean that love cures addiction, or that love is a gigantic eraser that removes from the memories and bodies of the women all the horrifying things they have seen, done, and that were done to them, or that here you have permission to do whatever you please no matter who it hurts. It doesn’t even mean that everyone gets along and sits in the living room singing Kumbaya. It means you are loved and you belong. You no longer need make a home, sink your roots down into the cold and lonesome ground of fear. You belong in the home that love built and that means loving yourself and loving others, too.
What if we sunk our roots down deep into the warm, rich earthy love of Jesus? Let’s try it. Here’s a challenge for us all for this week; a little experiment. Every morning, pray that God will grow your roots down deep into the love of Jesus. Pray that God will keep your mind and heart turned towards this all day long. As we go throughout our day, things will happen that will try to tell us that we don’t belong there, we live in the frigid, trembling house of fear or the rickety, drafty shack called anxiety, or that things are so bad, we don’t belong anywhere. Things will also happen that may make us think some other person doesn’t belong in a house of love like we do. When that happens, pray that God will bring you back home and fill you up with Jesus’ never ending gracious fountain of love.
Inside your bulletin, there are some prayers for you to use if you wish, but you can certainly make up your own! They are just reminders of our experiment. I will be so interested to hear what your experience is like this week!
Let us pray:
God of hope, what wondrous love is this that you have given us! We are loved and we belong. As we go through our days, remind us that we abide with you, we live in the home that love built, and because of this love, we are called to love others in the same way. Fill us to overflowing with your Holy Spirit, o God, and teach us to walk in the ways of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen
Morning prayer suggestion:
God of hope, what wondrous love you have given me. Keep me rooted deeply in your love this and every day. Fill my heart and eyes and ears with the truth that I make my home in you and teach me to love all those I meet as you love. Lead me in the ways of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray, Amen.
Prayer during the day suggestion:
Goodness and mercy follow me all my days, and I live in the house of God forever. God, give me the courage to act and speak in your gracious love.