Love one another
“Love one another with a pure heart fervently.” A line from one of my top ten anthems, and one that gave me the most embarrassing moment ever. I learnt this anthem in my twenties when I had a voice that had a range that enabled me to sing all the parts. One day on my walk from the station to my office, I was doing just that completely unaware of a chap walking behind me. At the end of my journey, he complimented my voice and asked what it was called, with very red cheeks I answered and hurried off.
We continue our journey with the disciples from Jesus’ Resurrection to his Ascension. In the Gospel today (John 15:9-17), we listen in on the conversation between Jesus and the apostles during the Last Supper. John the Evangelist shares this conversation with us because not only was Jesus’ conversation for strengthening the apostles but for our benefit too. Today we heard Jesus begin, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” (John 15:9) we learn that the Father loves Jesus and in the same way Jesus loves us. Think of how much the Father loves Jesus. We cannot even begin to imagine how much the Father loves Jesus, but we see the Father expressing his love for Jesus throughout the Gospels.
When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened and the Spirit descended on Jesus and the Father spoke, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17) When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain and shone brilliantly white, once again the Father spoke and said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matt 17:5) When you love someone you show that love in various ways such as words of support, spending quality time together, helping them. When Jesus was baptized and transfigured, the Father stated his love for Jesus, “This is my beloved Son.”
Jesus says he loves us just as the Father loves us. “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” Later Jesus explains just how he loves us, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13) Jesus laid down his life for us. This is the greatest love anyone can show. When someone loves us, they show it, and Jesus showed his love as he laid down his life for us on the Cross. The Father loves Jesus and Jesus laid down his life for us on Calvary.
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” Then Jesus says, “Remain in my love.” (John 15:9) Jesus is inviting us into this relationship of love between the Father and Jesus himself. Jesus wants that for us. Jesus offers that love between the Father and himself to us, “Remain in my love.” How do we remain in the love of Jesus? Where do we receive the love of Jesus? Just as we show love to another by spending quality time with that person, we can receive the love of Jesus by spending quality time with Jesus. If we do not spend quality time with Jesus, how can Jesus spend quality time with us to give us his love? We spend quality time with Jesus by praying every day.
Quality time is not just a hurried grace before or after meals, or a hurried prayer last thing at night. Quality time is spending time every day in prayer with Jesus. Finding a way to pray that suits. To begin praying, the atmosphere must be right. We can pray in the church or a chapel or at home, but the room must be quiet, without distractions, and comfortable. Praying together with family is great because praying together unites us. We are familiar with the saying, “The family that prays together stays together.” Just as our bodies need to be nourished by food, our prayer also needs nourishment so we could begin our prayer by reading a passage from one of the Gospels and use it to help us to pray and reflect and meditate. Or we could read a passage from a spiritual book, so our mind is already raised to God when we pray. It is quite ok to talk to God about our day when we pray. We can come before God just as we are with all our faults and fears, our problems and joys and hopes.
As we spend quality time with Jesus, something happens gradually. As we pour out our thoughts to God, and mull over his words in the Bible, we gradually soak up those words and they become part of us. We discover that the words of the Bible are a love letter from God to us. As we spend quality time with Jesus and allow him to spend quality time with us, we gain new insights into life and into our lives and the world around us. We also become happier and that time in prayer with Jesus can become the happiest part of our day. Then the words of Jesus in the Gospel today make sense, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
Many studies have shown that prayer is good for our health. As we spend time in prayer with Jesus and get new insights into life and the world around us and gradually soak up the words of God to us and they become part of us, we also see that there is a way to live that pleases Jesus. Then what Jesus says in the Gospel today makes perfect sense, “If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love.” (John 15:10) In fact, when living the life of Jesus, commandments do not even seem like commandments but are the natural way to live. So how do we remain in the love of Jesus? The answer is simple and Jesus himself gives it to us; we remain in Jesus’ love by keeping his commandments. This is not a restriction at all but pure joy because it all flows from spending quality time with Jesus to allow him to spend quality time with us.
As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. (John 15:9-10) Amen.
The Rev'd Mo Lunn, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 09/05/2021