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Love in a New Key

Easter 6 Common Lectionary Year B

John 15:9-17,Ps 98

©2018 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Sing “All you need is love.
All you need is love…Love is all you need.”
(I share a home with a guy who grew up to the Beatles!)

It could be a really short sermon today, because
that’s the gist of this weaving, twining, repeating text.
“All you need is love.”

John’s Jesus has been saying that, not just for the eight verses we just
embodied, but for 3 long chapters, now;
“I’m leaving, I won’t be shoulder to shoulder with you
in this life, in a matter of hours.
but you’re going to be okay,
‘cause, all you need is love.”

But it is a special kind of love.
Love in a new key.
Not the easy love we can have for people just like us,
nor yet sexual love, not attractional love,
not physical nor even companionable love,
not even compassionate love, or sympathetic love,
though it could and does include any or all of those things,

It’s a love we barely understand.
Which is probably why Jesus took so long,
and so many repeats and metaphors: –
“All you need is love, love, love is all you need”
to get his disciples to slow down,
and notice, and hopefully ‘get’ what he meant,
what he means,
and learn to live this love in a new key for themselves.

The key to this love of which Jesus speaks,
this love he commands us to live,
is the word, “abide.”
“Abide in my love.”
An old, odd word.
Some of you are humming right now, another song,
in another key, a hymn,
“Abide with me fast falls the eventide…”
A prayer to God to.. what?
to stick close, to not go anywhere,
to be faithful, to be dependable,
especially through life’s changes, trials and troubles.

Abide: to be grafted to the vine,
to be entwined one with another,
stronger together than apart.
to stick together,
to hold fast hand in hand,
to rest, or wait, or, endure,
to trust in the strength of what holds us together,
Abide in the sort of love that
cost our life and our living.
Jesus calls abiding love the sort of love
for which we will lay down our life for the other.

This love in a new key has everything to do
with the formation and sustenance
of a life-giving community,
in good and especially in bad times,
and very little to do with the satisfaction of self
or of personal desire.

This abiding in God love has taken Jesus a lifetime of living it,
his forgiving, even of Judas, his healing, his teaching,
his courage in the face of oppressive power,
his abiding with the lost, the outcast,
his willingness to lay his life on the line for,
to get to this this point in his relationship with those who have followed him,
his abiding with them,
for them to really ‘get it’
that this “Love that is all we need”
is some tough, strong, entwining, abiding love.

For God knows,
our world needs this love in a new key right now.
The world needs
sort of abiding love that gets priests fired, or shot,
for speaking truth to power,
the sort of abiding love, that as Paul (Clarke),
our wonderful itinerant preacher,
so eloquently demonstrated last week,
turns its concern not to the self, but to the “other”
and particularly to those “others” that get passed over,
forgotten, left out, detained, pushed out.

God knows, the world needs communities of abiding love.
Communities where diversity is worth the struggle.
Communities, like this one,
where the hard work of abiding through forgiveness is repeated,
time and again.
Where the width of the doorway
and the openness of its welcome is genuine, and stretching.
Where its resources are gladly spent in the care it offers to strangers.
Where the abiding love it offers to all
is entwining, consistent, generous, and enduring
especially when to do so is hard.

I wonder then,
if this oft-repeated, mantra-like
“abide in me, as I in you, abide in me as I abide in God our Abba”
is something that John’s Jesus is also teaching
us to actually use, repeat as necessary,
until we like him, can embody it?
For this sort of love in a new key
that are called to love is the sort of loving
we can’t do alone.
We can’t love like this,
apart, separated from
the power, truth, strength, forgiveness, mercy
and love, of an utterly faithful God,
who twines us close.

I know I can’t.
By myself, I don’t see the world through resurrection lenses.
I need Jesus’ story, I need to abide in it, be grafted into it,
in order to see the truth of hope and life
especially in places of fear and death.
By myself, God knows, I don’t have abiding patience,
I can’t trust enough, wait long enough
for the seasons of God’s Spirit
to work in mine or other’s lives,
not without being grafted to this Gospel,
not without learning, by rote and repetition, Day 36,
to abide in God, to abide in the life-giving and life-spending
love of God made known in Jesus, my Christ.
By myself, I doubt I can muster the courage to speak
God’s truth to power,
or to lead and ask for generosity and love and forgiveness of you,
unless I am first and repeatedly abiding in God’s limitless love and mercy.

I know I’m not the only one here, who repeatedly finds this
Love in a New Key hard,
which is why we have been given
a Gospel story to cling to and abide in.
And why we have been given to each other.
It is why we are grafted together,
entwined with God and with one another.
So that every twist, every act of love,
of forgiveness, of care, of generosity,
strengthening us to bear the fruit of
God’s Dream in our living and our loving.

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