Sunday, May 6, 2012

In Koinonia with the Lord Jesus Christ. Homily for JOHN 15:9-17

6th Sunday Of Easter
Homily for 5.13.12
John 15:9-17 (see below)
Year B
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The Gospel Lectionary reading for this the 6th Sunday of Easter again offers us a text from Jesus' upper room discourses. Clearly, no matter how many times we read these "talks," we are amazed at the emotion they evoke. As we said last week, these are moments of dread -- for we know that Jesus is very close to death, but they also present to the reader moments of pathos as well -- for we know this death is pro nobis.

But, surprisingly, they also bring to us the love and joy that springs forth from an intimacy found in friendship with Jesus Christ the LORD. Here we have Jesus drawing together his small band of followers, preparing both them and himself for his departure through death.

That is, we should not think that the emotion of the moment was merely one way, that of the disciples’ fear and confusion at the unexpected prospect of Jesus leaving them. No, Jesus too, must have been filled with emotion at the idea that they would be without him; that they would carry-on the enterprise started together, by themselves. That is how it is for we humans when we prepare to die.

And yet, Jesus speaks to them of how the relationship would continue, which is a very odd idea indeed, for how can Jesus think their relationship would be present if he was no longer with them -- if he were dead; unless of course he sees the possibility beyond death?

Just how were they to:
remain in his love?
have his joy to be in them?
To be sure, Jesus could be speaking metaphorically, but we know that he has more than metaphor in mind, don't we. From reading other words in the texts of these upper room discourses we know that Jesus desires that they would joyfully remain in him through the coming Comforter. It is in this way, through the literal, present Spirit of the living, risen Lord who offers an actual, ongoing koinonia -- an enterprise relationship -- with the Father and the risen Jesus. 

Now, here it is important to drill down a little deeper into this text and to search for how Jesus describes this ongoing relationship he envisions with his followers. Notice that this koinonia, this enterprise relationship, is characterized by love, joy and friendship, it is based upon obedience to his command, and has fruitfulness as a goal.

So, let's break it down like this:


  1. A LOVING, JOYFUL FRIENDSHIP
  2. AN OBEDIENCE THAT LOVES ONE ANOTHER
  3. A FRUITFUL ENTERPRISE THAT REMAINS

A LOVING, JOYFUL FRIENDSHIP

The text begins with what must be the most unexpected statement to the disciples: 
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you.’”
What? The loving, wise and caring relationship that the Father has for Jesus is the same loving, wise and caring relationship that Jesus has with his followers. That is, Jesus’ followers are invited into a trinitarian stream of love. To be honest, I really don’t know what this means, other than to use the word purity. The Father’s love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for his followers is contained within a purity that allows no false motive, no selfish inclination, no defilement, no pollution, no corruption.

And so Jesus says: 
“Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love...”
That is, if we choose we can remain in this pure, trinitarian love. We can remain within this love just as Jesus does:
“...just as I have kept my Father"s commandments and remain in his love.”
And what is Jesus’ motive for telling his followers this truth about how much he loves them:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.”
That is, in the midst of the coming sorrow that will be his betrayal and torture, and in the face of the brutality of his public execution, he wants them, nevertheless, to have his joy among them, com-pletely. This brings to mind the post-resurrection appearances in John’s Gospel, where, whenever Jesus comes to the disciples he offers his same joy and they gladly receive it.

This tells us that where the followers of Jesus remain, together, living out his love through obedience to his commandment, there will also be present the wise, loving relationship found within the community of the Trinity, and there will be immense joy because of it.

In fact, the reality is that the relationship between Jesus and his followers will take the name of, dare I say it, friendship. This gives a somewhat different slant to the Master/servant relationship that, for example, St. Paul often describes. Here, Jesus is offering his followers a relationship of mutuality, a collaboration. Here, Jesus’ followers are asked to bring something to the table, for that is what a friendship is really - reciprocity and a mutual bond of support.

The question is: Because these words were personally addressed to the ones Jesus directly chose to be his own (“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you...” reads the text) was this special friendship meant only for his disciples, the ones who would initially be sent forth on the gospel enterprise, or are we included as well? I don’t know, really, but if Jesus’ John 17 prayer is any indication, we were on the Lord’s heart here as well.



AN OBEDIENCE THAT LOVES ONE ANOTHER

But, as I said, this joy-filled, loving friendship occurs because of the choice to remain within that loving relationship by being obedient to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here the text read:

Jesus said to his disciples: 
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you. 
Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father"s commandments and remain in his love." 
And then later:
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”
And, what is his commandment:
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends...”

So, this joyful and loving trinitarian friendship is based upon self-giving love within a community. It is here that Jesus offers us the basis of the new humanity -- his new community, his new covenant people. We are to lay down our lives for our friends, our com-munity, just like he was about to do for his friends. Which means it would be by this self-giving love that:
“All people would know you are my disciples...”
and
“The world would believe that Jesus was sent from the Father...”

A FRUITFUL ENTERPRISE THAT REMAINS

You see, this joyful and loving trinitarian friendship, as wonderful as it is, is hardly an end to itself. There is too much at stake -- to much blood and death and destruction -- to let things slide into a trinitarian escape. No, this koinonia enterprise has as it goal nothing less that the full and complete reclaiming of GOD’s good world, marred and lost as it is to sin and rebellion, hate and greed, conflict and war.

What GOD is doing in Messiah Jesus, through the cross and in the resurrection, is this victorious reclamation project, now sustained by his new covenant people as they live out this loving wise friendship, and then one day completely reclaimed by the present-ness of the royal presence of the living Lord Jesus Christ.

Said differently, those early friends, the disciples, as well as we who have “believed because of their testimony,” now:

  • absorb the pain of a broken world in, self-giving and loving friendship 
  • display to the watching world the wise, loving rule of the Sovereign King Jesus 
  • proclaim with our lives that the rule of the new King is nothing like those of current empires, be they religious or not 
Or, said still differently, together, as a living, breathing community of the King, we offer daily allegiance to that King, knowing with great assurance that wherever this community allegiance is seen for what it is, wherever it is heard about in a wider community, a wise and loving fruitful friendship will grow and and will remain.

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JOHN 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father"s commandments
and remain in his love."


"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love 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 no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another."