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  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

Sixth Sunday of Easter: "You are My Friends... Love One Another"

May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you, O God.


A few weeks ago, Trevor showed me a video he had seen on Facebook.  It had gone viral with people thinking it was humorous.


It featured a preacher who was “calling out” members of his congregation, or rather singling them out.  He was berating and belittling people.


I did not find it funny.


I was and remain deeply disturbed by what the preacher was doing because he kept saying, “You know I love you, don’t you?”  This did not - does not - feel like love to me.  It felt like anger and hate and abuse.  It also seemed to me that perhaps this preacher might be happier in a new line of work.


This is not an example of the love that Jesus preached.  This is not an example of the love that John the Evangelist wrote about in our reading this morning.


Let’s take a closer look at the love John was talking about and consider how we can make that love central to how we live.


Sometimes our lectionary jumps around and this is one of those times.  The reading from the Gospel of John is out of order.  We have gone back in time to the night of his arrest when Jesus delivers a final testimony to his disciples to help them in the days ahead.  Here he repeats the most important of all his commandments - that they love one another.


Our readings today are connected with the theme of love for one another.  In the Gospel we have the example of friendship.  With this image of friendship we are called to serve others as Jesus came to serve.


Friendship captures the love, the joy, the deep mutuality of the relationship into which Christ invites us.


The Greeks believed that true friends are willing to die for each other.  This is why John has Jesus say that there is nothing greater than to lay down one’s  life for another.


Do you know the story of the Hollies' song, “He’s Not Heavy He’s My Brother?” This song hints at the love Christians are to have for one another.  Love that is not a burden.  Apparently the song  came about because of an experience in an orphanage.  The song was inspired by something that happened at the Boys Town orphanage.  The priest, Father Flanagan, saw an older boy carrying a younger boy with polio and asked if carrying the boy was difficult.  The older boy responded, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.”


How can we carry one another in love, not as a burden but as a privilege of being in one family in Christ?


In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus speaks about love found in friendship. Friends of Jesus and friendship in Jesus requires that we follow his command to love one another.  If we are friends and followers of Jesus how ought we live and act in light of this command?


Take some time and think about how you have experienced Jesus as a friend in your life - and try NOT to start humming “What a Friend We Have in Jesus?!  


Think about the friends in your life - friends from childhood, perhaps life long friends, friends from different eras of our lives, different places we have lived.


Friends can extend to non humans as well.  Children might be better at this than we are.  When Leah was young she had a couple of very real friends that only she could see (adults tend to dismiss these friends as “invisible”), but to Leah they were very very real.  I got quite familiar with them as well as they seemed to spend a lot of time at my house.  There was Boop Boop and Meet Meet - don’t ask me why they had double names!  Boop Boop was the main friend and very good and loving.  Meet Meet on the other hand was very naughty and always getting into trouble - Leah had to reprimand her on more than one occasion.  I remember distinctly the day that Meet Meet insisted on putting on white clothes and going out to hide in the snow.  Leah was very cross with her.


Friends also come in the form of animals.  We call them pets or companion animals but truth be told they are really our friends.  When I was young we adopted a dachshund from the Humane Society.  Ted was immediately my dog - my friend.  He slept on the end of my bed and I loved him.  But my younger brothers were allergic and we had to return him.  I remember getting up really early on the day he was to go back  - I walked through the neighbourhood crying till I got to my friend’s house -and I rang the bell - goodness knows what her parents thought - very early in the morning I turn up crying my heart out!   I don’t know why I went there - maybe I hoped they would change what was happening.


Since then there have been many four legged friends in my life.  Some have stayed longer than others.  But losing them was always too soon.  These friends are different than any others we may have because if we love them they love us back - no conditions. 


Yes, we can have bosom buddy friends - friends that are closer than family.  We can have friends that we cannot imagine living without. Friends that know our deepest secrets.   We may call these friends spouse or partner or lover or friend or Boop Boop.  But they love us and we love them.  Our lives are richer because of them.


Jesus urged his closest friends to love each other as he loved them. Our friends can also be found in this space.  They are not our “Christian Friends”, they are just our friends and we are blessed to call each other that.


Could we stretch the boundaries of who or what we call friend?  What if the whole world was our friend?  Would we look after those in need a bit better? Would we do more to bring peace to troubled nations?  Would we treat the natural world better?


What does it look like to follow Christ’s love command within these sacred relationships?


AMEN



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