Year B Easter 6, 9 May 2021
Video and Live Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect: O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
Abiding is a lost art. I must admit. I do not abide well. I have a hard time sitting still, much less abiding. But Jesus is clear. Abide.
“Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
If we need to abide, then we may as well abide someplace nice. And in the love of Jesus things are pretty swell, and I cannot imagine anywhere better.
We all have abided. It is very apt that today is Mother’s Day. And each and every one of us has been born, and therefore must have a mother. Thank God for Mothers. I am always reticent to mention Mother’s Day because for some it causes such pain. But this year I am making an exception because the analogy is so apt, I mention Mother’s Day because we all have one or we could not be here.
Berke Breathed, the cartoonist who drew and wrote Bloom County for years, wrote a children’s book named “Mars Needs Moms.” Disney actually made a movie from it. Things were crazy on Mars, and the martians were wanting structure out of their chaos. So they kidnapped the mothers of earth. In it a child, who had just wished he did not have a mother. She was a “bellowing broccoli bully and a carrot-cuddling cuckoo” who made him do the things he needed to do. Well, Milo, the main character finds a way to the red planet to rescue his mom and all the moms. In the rescue, he almost dies and it is his mother who jumps in to sacrifice herself for the love of her child. No question. No hesitation. No regret. He had abided in her for nine months, and there was no other consideration. Abiding is like that. It goes beyond the rational. It goes beyond the word we call love. Abiding is finding a home where all that is needed is given, freely, no strings attached. And the feeling is more than cozy, more than home-y, it is indescribable. It abides.
Abide in me, as I abide in the Father, Jesus urges. It reminded me of an interesting fact I heard. Women, all women alive, were once in their grandmother, in a way. Stay with me here. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have in their ovaries. Okay, so that means they were in their mother. Yes, but when your mother was born, the egg that would become half of you was in your grandmother. So the chain of women goes deep. Grandmother births the mother who is born with the egg that becomes the daughter, and the son, too. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, the Psalmist says and biology confirms here.
When the egg is fertilized, it must snuggle into the womb to live. It must abide. It snuggles in and the magic happens. The placenta is grown and draws nourishment and oxygen from the mother. The embryo grows into the fetus in the 8th week since fertilization, and the abiding is truly established.
The mutuality and interplay is amazing, and fascinating, and so very fragile.
Things can go wrong, and the Abiding can be disrupted or prevented. It is true in the Parable of the Sower and how the seeds grow, it is true in how embryos snuggle in, and it is true in our Abiding in Jesus.
Jesus tells us how to abide in him and the result.
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
If we keep his commandments, we will abide in his love. And if we abide in his love, our joy will be complete. That is what Jesus wants. That is what I hope and pray we all want.
Think about it. Why do our parents tell us what to do? Most of the time it is for our own good. Most of the time, it is to keep us healthy, happy, and content. Most parents are not out to hurt or harm us. Most parents want what is best, but all parents have to say, “No!”
These commandments come down, not to enslave, ensnarl, or belittle us, but to save us, enrich us, and bemuse us. They say “No!” and pronounce commandments because they love us and care for our well-being. But so often it takes us becoming a parent to truly grasp the immensity of that.
Jesus commands us because he wants us to have the fullness of his joy as we abide in him.
And as we abide in him, we do not try and get our sustenance from somewhere else. When an embryo is gaining everything from its umbilical, how silly would it be for it to be trying to get fed from somewhere else. If we are truly abiding we do not think of anywhere else.
God wants us to be joyfilled. God wants our complete joy. Not halfway. Not three quarters. God wants us to be filled to the brim and overflowing, so our cup can “runneth over.”
And as I say this, I always have to add the caveat, do not confuse joy with happiness. Things make us happy or unhappy. Situations, pleasures, and entertainments.
Joy comes from within, no matter our situation. Joy is our appreciation of who we are, and whose we are. Joy is the attitude of gratitude for all that we have been given, and all that we have been enabled to do. Happiness is a feeling, while Joy is a choice and the byproduct of Abiding.
And God wants us to choose to abide, and in so doing, God wants our Joy to be complete.
Coen Brother movies are a favorite, always so rich and profound, even their comedies. And one of their most notorious, speaks of the Dude. And in it the Dude rises above the problems of this world, because like he says, “The Dude abides.”
My prayer for all of us, is that we will be more than guests. We will make ourselves at home, snuggled in, safe and warm, for now and always. Amen.