Fifth Sunday of Easter Lectionary Reflection, Year B
May 3, 2015
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. John 15:4
So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 1 John 4:16
Between the devastation of the earthquake in Nepal on April 25 and the painful situation just down the road in Baltimore surrounding the tragic and senseless death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent protests, there’s been more than enough suffering and brokenness to go around. It’s easy to wonder where God is in the midst of natural disaster and injustice, and why we humans have such a hard time loving one another. “How long, O Lord, how long?” we may be tempted to lament.
Fortunately, this week’s gospel and epistle lessons provide an opportunity to focus on the source of all life, hope, and healing–God as revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ. In the gospel lesson, Jesus is preparing his closest followers for his impending humiliation and death at the hands of an unjust political and social system. They have a tough time hearing and accepting this message because it is simply not part of their worldview of what ought to be happening. One might wonder how they heard all of this talk of abiding and branches bearing fruit. Was it an easily dismissed “duh” moment or perhaps a head-scratching nanosecond of confusion?
However those early followers may have heard and experienced Jesus’ words, we today can see them for the radical, challenging, and inclusive message they bear. This is no sugar-coated dream-o-rama do-it-yourself imagery, but rather a communal mandate for how we as disciples are called to live, bearing fruit and thriving in the vineyard of this world.
And it’s all about the love. Not a saccharine-sweet pop song love, but the radical death-defying love of Jesus the savior of this world. It’s not about earning or deserving love either. It’s about a love so amazing and so limitless that it continues to pour forth in bread and wine, Word and water, and Spirit-wind. Love is, in fact, the very nature and essence of God, and we are only able to love because God first loved us.
In a world so broken and bruised, this love of God made real in Jesus and extended to us is the only antidote to death and darkness. Indeed, we are commanded to love our brothers and sisters and to constantly draw a wider and more inclusive circle in which Christ’s healing love may be found. No one ever claimed this divine love business would be easy, but we have the promise that in loving one another God lives in us and God’s love is perfected in us. Sounds awfully much like a recipe for a better world.
So even as anger festers and tempers flare in Baltimore, and as families mourn the loss of life as they know it in Nepal, we individually and in community must choose to abide in God, to be connected to the source of love and life. For it is only in this vital abiding in Christ that we bear the fruits of love, kindness, mercy, and hope. In the face of any pain and suffering the world may dish out, by the grace of God we are equipped and empowered to love: One small act at a time, one person at a time, on moment at a time. Thanks be to God!
Consider singing “Love Consecrates the Humblest Act” or “Where Charity and Love Prevail” today. Invite worshipers to consider one way they can share Christ’s love this week. Consider giving each person a small paper heart on which to write their idea for sharing the love of Christ. Collect the hearts and make a paper chain around the altar rail. Make sure to include specific prayer petitions this week for those places in the world where people are suffering, where hate and anger threaten to blot out love, and where violence needs to be supplanted by love.
God’s love can be tough love–especially in the form of the command for us to love one another. Discuss with youth examples of how loving others can be tough. What about people who are different? What about love in the face of injustice? Cornel West said that “Justice is what love looks like in public.” How might this statement relate to the gospel and epistle readings for this week?
Staying Connected/Abiding in God
Bring a potted flower and a cut flower. Invite children to tell you the difference between the two. Stress that the cut flower will wither and die. The flowers on the potted plant may also wither and die, but as long as the plant is watered, tended, and pruned, more flowers will bloom and provide beauty and enjoyment for a long time to come. Tell the children that when we stay connected to the roots of our faith–by being active in our faith community, watered in baptism, and nourished in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, we too will grow and blossom and flourish. We can only bear beautiful fruit when we are connected to the tap root of God’s love. Consider giving each child a small potted plant with John 15:5 written on the pot (or use a sticker).
(Photos: Lisa L. Wiedmeier, UKAid, and Cat Watters, Creative Commons. Thanks!)