Sermon by Betty Hayes 09.05.2021

Holy Communion 9th May 2021 – St Mark’s

 

Sermon by Betty Hayes

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Amen.

Today’s Gospel reading, together with the last week’s, is part of Jesus’ final teaching at the last supper as recorded in John’s Gospel.  We also heard in our reading from the Book of Acts the moment where Peter acknowledges that Gentiles were also saved.  This is good news – by the death and resurrection of Jesus, we here are saved as members of God’s family for ever.

The last supper was a private occasion; Jesus was teaching his special friends on his last day with them.  John intends us to read it as if we were there ourselves and take Jesus’ message to ourselves.

So, what is Jesus saying to his disciples then and to us now?  I’ll be referring to last week’s reading, as I think they belong together – if you remember that’s the section that begins with Jesus saying I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

What we hear from Jesus are 2 commands with 1 purpose.  The commands are (v.9) Remain (abide) in my love and (v.12) Love one another and the purpose is (v.16) to go and bear fruit.

Let’s begin with the purpose. What might fruitfulness look like in our context?  What does it mean for us?  What help does Jesus give us in his teaching?

Jesus refers to himself as the true Vine – this is a long-standing Old Testament symbol of Israel, the people of God – the Israelites were given (way back in their history…) the task of being a light to all nations – that is, to show God to those who didn’t know him – but they failed – they absorbed the culture of the people of the land they lived in and lost their place as the distinctive people of God by their disobedience.

When Jesus named himself as the true Vine, he picked up on this symbolism.  We, as branches of this true Vine, pick up the fruit-bearing task of the Israelites – showing God to those who don’t yet know him.

If we want to be fruit-bearers for Jesus, then he tells us in v.10 & 14 that we have to keep those 2 commands.

He also tells us that he now calls us “friends” if we obey his commands.  This might sound a bit strange to us because we’d find it very odd if our friends tried to tell us what to do!

The Greek word that John used here for “friends” is used for the close companions of a King, his inner circle of special people – they know him well, they know his secrets but… they still have to obey him because he is the King.

This is the sense in which we are friends of Jesus – he has shared his plans and his dreams, but to stay in relationship with him we have to obey him.

And he reminds us, in v.16, that this relationship begins with grace “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil”.

How are we to do this? – to keep these commands and bear fruit?  What help do we find in this passage?  It doesn’t matter how big or how small you are, whether you’re 5 years old or 105 years young – we can all bear fruit for Jesus.

Command 1

Jesus says earlier in v.4– Remain (or abide) in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

What might abiding / remaining in Jesus look like?

In v.7 he says that his words should remain in us – the Message version says “my words are at home in you” – this means reading the Bible, getting to know God and Jesus through our scriptures – to be disciplined in Bible reading (I find the Bible in a Year app helpful but there are many others and you can get booklets of reading guides from The Triangle).

In v.9 Jesus says “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me.  Make yourselves at home in my love” – this is worship – making time to simply soak in God’s presence – music / nature / art / scripture – for me it’s working in my garden or walking on Yateley Common – whatever takes you to a place where God is, that’s worship.

In vs.7 & 16 Jesus calls us to prayer – “if you remain in me then whatever you ask in my name will be given” – a place where we can ask and know that we are heard – I always need help with prayer so I use Pray-As-You-Go or Lectio365 or SacredSpace on my phone – but there are many books of prayer or even the CofE Daily Office.

In v.17 Jesus reminds us of the command “Love one another” – in other words fellowship – spending time with other believers is both the most satisfying and the most encouraging way of remaining in Jesus – and as the strange times we’ve been living in begin to open up again we’ll be able to once more enjoy our gathering, our shared worship, our story-telling, our meals.

I, and perhaps most of you, have missed and still miss human company – and my prayer is that we will soon be able to abide in Jesus together freely; worshipping, serving, eating and enjoying one another’s company.

Which neatly leads into Command 2

In v.12, He reiterates his commandment from chapter 13 “Love one another as I have loved you

What might that kind of loving look like?

In chapter 13 we saw Jesus serving his disciples by washing their feet and he says here in v.13 greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends – of course we know that he is indeed about to make the sacrifice of his own life for us – but most of us are never asked to do this.

Loving one another can still be about service and sacrifice, about putting others before ourselves – many of us wouldn’t hesitate if a friend or a neighbour needed us to help out in an emergency – to get some shopping or a prescription or with a ride to an appointment – but what if it is more constant than that? – a repeated cry for help – are we able to keep serving, showing Jesus’ love for us in our love for others – this is indeed sacrificial love.

Remembering that our relationship with Jesus begins with grace “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil”.

And in v.11 Jesus says that he is telling us these things so that “[his] joy might be [our] joy and [our] joy may be complete”.

We have been chosen to bear fruit, everlasting fruit that grows as we reveal the light of Jesus to the world (in big ways or small ways) so that God is glorified.

We unlock our potential for fruit bearing by being obedient to the 2 commands given here remain in my love and love one another.

We keep these commands by reading the Bible, prayer, worship and sacrificial service in fellowship – and, in keeping these commands, we bear fruit and live joyfully.

All of this is counter-cultural, especially in these difficult and sometimes dark and selfish times.  We can’t do it on our own – Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would live in us to help us – we only have to ask. 

May I pray?

Father of all, as we have heard and explored Jesus’ final words to us, send your Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with strength to keep your commands today.  Amen.