Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, May 5, 2024

YEAR B 2024 easter 6

Easter 6, 2024
Acts 10:44-48
1 John 5:1-6
John 15:9-17
Psalm 98

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today I want us to consider the four “my things” of Jesus in this Gospel reading.  By which I mean, when Jesus says, my love, my joy, my friends, and my choice.  Love, joy, friends, and choice.

Let’s start with the most-familiar one.  The love of Jesus.  We’re all steeped in sermons and bible studies and books about the love of Jesus.  We hear about it and we talk about it all the time.  We have the Sunday school song, Jesus loves me this I know to get us started, and then throughout the rest of our lives we are assured over and over that Jesus loves us.  But we rightly ask, what does it mean for Jesus to love us?  

I think it helps to remind ourselves that ancient Greek has three words for love: 1.  Philia, which is like the love we have for our siblings and friends.  2.  Eros, which is romantic love.  and 3.  Agape, which is unconditional love.  Agape love is the love Jesus has for us, the kind of love we hear about in John 3:16.  For God so loved the world (with agape love) that God sent God’s only son so that we might be saved.  That’s unconditional love.  Agape love expects nothing and offers everything.  As we heard Jesus say this morning, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  When Jesus says, “my love,” that’s the kind of love he is talking about.  Sacrificial love.  Laying down his life for us.  That’s the “my love” of our four sayings of Jesus.

Now, trickier, “my joy.”  We don’t often think about or talk about the joy of Jesus.  Most of the stories about Jesus in the gospels are passionate, and compassionate, and agonizing.  If you’re anything like me, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the joy of Jesus.  A friend of mine has a tattoo on his arm of a painting called “Laughing Jesus.”  Every time I see it, it makes me go, “Oh yeah.  Jesus definitely laughed!”  Fully human means Jesus laughed, along with everything else humans do.  But we don’t often think about that.

A joyful Jesus takes some effort to imagine I think.  And that’s because we don’t talk about the joy of Jesus.  In today’s gospel Jesus says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”  Our joy may be complete because the joy of Jesus is inside us.  The first step in that process is for us to remember that Jesus has joy to give us right?  Think about your own joy at the beauty of a sunset, or seeing someone you love do something amazing, or sharing a delicious meal with your friends.  Jesus surely had joys like that too—except, like—on steroids.  Because he was in on designing those things to inspire joy in us.  And—as Jesus just said—when the joy of Jesus is in us, our joy is complete.  Our joy is fulfilled.  So that’s two of Jesus’ sayings:  My love, and my joy.

And then the third in our list is “my friends.”  We are used to calling Jesus  our Lord, and our Savior, and our God.  But . . . our friend?  Sure, we have hymns like “What a friend we have in Jesus.”  But how often do you actually think of Jesus as your friend?  It might seem like a stretch, but it’s really not.  Because your friends are the people in your life you choose to spend time with.  And—in case it’s not obvious—you have chosen to spend time with Jesus this very morning.  Right now.

Jesus says, “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.”  It seems that for Jesus, being his friend means that he has revealed something to us.  Has shown us what he has heard from the Father.  And there’s a crucial thing to notice here.  Jesus does not say, “I call you friends because you hear what I have told you.”  He doesn’t say he calls us friends because we understand what he says to us.  

No, Jesus calls us friends because of what he has done.  We are not used to friendship working this way, are we?  We think of friendship as a mutual thing:  I’m your friend, and you’re my friend.  I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family, in the words of Barney the purple dinosaur.  But Jesus doesn’t say that we are friends.  He says, “I have called you friends.”  The implication is, though you might not consider Jesus a friend, Jesus calls you his friend.  It is different; and it is hard to wrap our heads around, I know.  But we are friends of Jesus because he says we are.  For those keeping score, we now have three sayings of Jesus:  My love, my joy, and my friends.

Which leads us to the final saying—which Jesus doesn’t literally say, but which is more implied—“my choice.”  As we heard, Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you.”  This flies in the face of hymns like, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  It completely contradicts those who tell you that you must make a decision to let God save you.  And when you combine it with the nature of friendship with Jesus that we just heard, it also negates the idea that you are saved because you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  What makes you a friend of Jesus is that he calls you his friend.  What makes you a disciple of Jesus is that he chooses you to be his disciple.  “You did not choose me but I chose you.”

Now, I know that conjunctions are slippery things in Greek, but I love that the word “but” is in there.  I like to imagine a dramatic pause before it.  Like Jesus says, You did not choose me . . . BUT . . . I chose you!  Because that gets to the heart of the matter.  This is all God’s doing.  All from the initiative of Jesus because it is what Jesus wants for us.  As Psalm 118 says,
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our sight.

My love, my joy, my friends, my choice.  These four things that belong to Jesus are the best news we will ever get.  Because the love of Jesus is unconditional.  And the joy of Jesus makes our joy complete.  And we are friends of Jesus because he calls us his friends.  And the choice of Jesus is that he chose us.  Each of us.  All of us.  The love, joy, friendship, and choice of Jesus.  All these things make us able to love one another, because God has first loved us.

May God remind us every day that we are the love, the joy, the friends, and the choice of Jesus.


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