Loved Them to the End - Reflections 5-6-2021

Texts for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 9, 2021 

John 15:9-17

Have you ever walked into a lecture part way through? Or joined a conversation that is already in progress? Often, you don’t quite get what you are hearing because you missed the earlier part, the context of what is being said. That is what we are doing these final Sundays of Easter. Last week and this week we hear parts of what is known as the “Farewell Discourse” in the Gospel of John which consists of chapters 14-16. On the seventh Sunday, Jesus gathers his farewell to the disciples into a prayer for the disciples in Chapter 17.

Chapter 13 lays out the physical context for the next chapters. Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem for the Passover. THE Passover when Jesus will be arrested, beaten and crucified. The context includes the foot washing scene, which has disrupted the Passover supper scene, which after the foot washing is picked up briefly to reveal Judas as the betrayer. Peter then denies that he is soon going to deny Jesus.

Jesus begins talking to his disciples. As you read chapters 14-16, it almost feels like Jesus doesn’t even take a breath as he says his final words to his beloved friends.

For me, the opening statement in Chapter 13 is the emotional, passionate, intimate context of the farewell. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

When I read those words… when I feel those words…. The mother-love in me gets a little breathless. I remember the good byes to my daughter as she has grown. The first day of kindergarten I wanted to coat her with love before she walked into that school, the tiniest one in the line of kindergarteners. Or as we drove her to UNI, I poured out my love through “remember to” and “look out for” and “be careful”. Then she moved out to NYC. By herself. Knowing only one person out there. Really, the only thing to say is that I love you, I love you to the end no matter what.

At points in John’s telling, Jesus seems almost incoherent. But it is precisely through the overflowing, practically incoherent speech that his love pours over them again and again. He assures them that through him they are loved by the Father. Like a vine and its branches, the relationship is organic. It is love that runs deep and abundantly in the vine that keeps the branches connected. That through the union of Jesus and Father, they will receive the Spirit, the Advocate who will be one with them (and Jesus and the Father). His love will be to them as a household in which they live, in which they will remain. They will abide in his love. And through all that is joy. Love one another as I have loved you, he says. Love as I have given love to you. And then he calls them friends and reminds them that they were chosen.  

Then he prays. And leaves for the garden, loving them to the end.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245