Sermon Archives

Sunday, May 6, 2018
The 6th Sunday of Easter (Year B)
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
Abide in My Love

In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Abide in my love.

On the surface of things, it’s a rather simple command and as far as religious obligations go, it seems moderately selfish! 

Abide in God’s love!  Who wouldn’t enjoy that!  How refreshing it would be to simply dwell in the knowledge of your belovedness, to have no other obligation – no children to tend, no spouse to worry about, no job to rush off to – how wonderful it would be to have no other obligation or demand upon us than to attend to the wonder of God’s love.

Lest we simply dismiss this call of discipleship as impractical given the real demands of daily life in the 21st century, let’s begin by remembering the context of this instruction from Jesus to his first disciples.  On his final night with his disciples, his beloved community, sometime after he had washed his their very feet a few hours but before his arrest and persecution, aware of the worlds’ hatred and his impending betrayal and abandonment by these same disciples, Jesus says to them, “abide in my love.”

They, too, might have dismissed these parting words as impractical advice for a community about to be torn apart!  Really, how were they to “abide in his love” as they watched his gruesome persecution and worried of their own safety?  How were they to “abide in his love” as they cowered in fear behind locked doors?  How were they, who had left everything – nets and homes and families – to follow him, supposed to survive if they simply “abided in his love”?

Yet, Jesus seems to know that, if they are to have any hope of “loving one another as he loved them” then they must also “abide in his love.”  For millennia, in fact, Christian saints and guides have known what Jesus so clearly teaches here – the beginning of loving one another, the beginning of loving our neighbor as ourselves, the beginning of loving them to the end – is abiding in his love first.

This seemingly self-indulgent command, “abide in my love,” “abide in Jesus’ love,” is the foundation to loving one another and the world as Jesus first loved you.

So, what does it mean?  It means, in no small part, that, if we are to begin to “love another as Jesus loves us” we must first immerse ourselves in the love of Jesus for us.  And this takes time – a lifetime, some would say – for it is more than, substantially more than, simply remembering that you are “beloved of God.”

It begins there, of course, with the mystical and joyous awareness of God’s eternal love for you.  To abide in his love is to consider with Saint Francis de Sale the “Eternal Love God has borne you, in that, even before our Lord Jesus Christ became Man and suffered on the Cross for you, His Divine Majesty designed your existence and loved you.  When did He begin to love you?  When He began to be God, and that was never, for He ever was, without beginning and without end.”

But it doesn’t stop there.  It mean considering as well, how God loves you.  To abide in God’s love means, to remember that God  loves not only the good and admirable parts of you that you post on Facebook – but the complete you that includes the messy and hidden parts you that only you know that you wish you didn’t.  And so, abiding in God’s love means that we must also face into the brokenness of our individual self, we must confess in the silence of our hearts our sin, the hurts we inflict, the hatreds we harbor, the greed that we enjoy, the fears that consume us, and the pride that inflates us.  To abide in God’s love is to face into these heartbreaking and shameful realities of our life and personhood – for only then can we see that God’s love encompasses them as well.  Only then can we begin to know that God love us, too, to the end.

And yet, to abide in God’s love means still more.  It means, too, that we must dwell in the reality that God’s love does not end with us.  It means that we must immerse ourselves in the well of love that extends beyond the horizon of our personal life.  It means dwelling in God with such steadfastness that we come to understand that all the has been whispered to us, that we are beloved and that we are forgiven and that we are loved to the end, is whispered in the ear of every living soul – those most dear to us and those most distant from us.  It is to come to understand that the belovedness and mercy that I know is not only for me and those like me, for those for those most unlike us as well – those of different cultural and economic and even political backgrounds and passions.  The eternal love of God is for them as much as it is for me.  It is for Judas and Peter and Caiaphas and Pilate.  It is for migrants and Palm Beachers, it is for Republicans and Democrats.

Friends, if we are to have any hope of loving one another as Jesus loves us, if we are to have any hope of loving our neighbor as ourselves, if we are ever to be able to love our enemy and not just our friends who love us in return, we must first abide in the depth and truth of God’s love for us, a love that has neither beginning nor ending – for neither our sin nor our death can fell God’s love.  Only then, when we begin to comprehend God’s love for us, will we begin to see God’s equal love for our neighbor.  And only then, shall we truly begin to love our neighbors and enemies as he first loved us.

“Abide in my love.” 

It’s a simple command.  It’s a life changing command as well.