“You did not choose me but I chose you.” – Jesus

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A friend.  What does the word, friend, mean to you?  What does it feel like to be called a friend, or to call someone, friend?  I am not talking about friending someone on facebook, but rather, deep and intimate friendship.  A friendship in which someone knows the song in your heart, who you are at the core of your being and what gives you hope, and then a friend that sings to you, with boldness and gentleness, your song of life when you can’t remember why you ever loved or hoped in the first place.

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 13, 2012, Year B

Acts 10.44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5.1-6; John 15.9-17

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson

 

Grace and peace to you from the One who calls us friends, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

I bought a card two years ago that I haven’t given to anyone yet.  I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind when I bought it, but I loved it so much I needed to buy it.  It speaks such truth so simply.  I have carried it around through 3 moves and it is nothing short of a miracle that I found it to have it here with me today to read to you.  The saying is by an unknown author and this is what it says:

A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.

A friend.  What does the word, friend, mean to you?  What does it feel like to be called a friend, or to call someone, friend?  I am not talking about friending someone on facebook, but rather, deep and intimate friendship.  A friendship in which someone knows the song in your heart, who you are at the core of your being and what gives you hope, and then a friend that sings to you, with boldness and gentleness, your song of life when you can’t remember why you ever loved or hoped in the first place.

Jesus uses the word, friend, in our Gospel reading today.  He calls his disciples friends and because he sees them as friends, he expects one thing out of them: to love one another.  What is fascinating to me is that Jesus doesn’t demand his disciples love him; he commands them to love one another

What Jesus makes clear is his relationship to the Father Creator and the love they share as parent and child.  And then Jesus goes so far to say and prove through his death the love he has for his disciples, which is the same deep and intimate love he and his father have for one another. 

The word love seems to have many meanings for many different people in the world.  Pastor Brian Stoffregen writes this about love: 

We talk about love as the warm feelings inside when we are with a special person – or even thinking about that person. We talk about loving a car or some other object, meaning that we really like it, or really want it, or we spend all our extra time working on it. We often think of love as getting or having something. It is a feeling I have or want to get. It is a person I get. It is an object I have or want to get. 

          – http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/john15x9.htm

 How often are you and I in friendships because we seek what’s in it for me?  What can I gain by being your friend?”  Maybe we have even used people for something or have been used by someone we considered to be a friend.

If this is the case, we need some serious redefining of what and who a friend is and what a friend does.  Friend, by Jesus’ definition, is described as being one whom Jesus loves.  A friend is someone Jesus loves.  So who do you think Jesus loves?

Do you think Jesus loves the people who are sitting next to you today in worship?  If so, why?  Is it because they are dashingly good looking?  Is it because they follow rules?  Is it because they are kind?  Is it because they go to church?

If you don’t think Jesus loves the people you are sitting next to or if you are unsure, why not?  Is it because you know what they’ve done in their lives?  Is it because you aren’t sure you believe in Jesus?

Let’s think about for a moment, those who Jesus calls friends: his disciples.  These are the people who ended up abandoning him in his time of need, denied being friends with him when asked, argued over who was the greatest, turned away children, many times did not understand what Jesus was talking about, and various things like that.  The disciples were far from perfect and never were actually considered perfect by anyone, and yet, Jesus loves them.

Let’s also think about who Jesus chose to eat with and hang around.  He was scrutinized by the religious, the elite, and the wealthy because he was often with societal outcasts: tax collectors, prostitutes, sick people, possessed people, poor people, people who were considered to be sinners!  Now why would the Son of God associate himself and spend his time with such people?  The simple answer is, because he loves them. 

John 3.16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son…”  This means: “For God so loved everyone, you and me and the people sitting next to you this morning, that he gave his only son to finally convince us all how much God deeply loves each one of us as we are.

There are so many times in which we think we need to earn love or that we don’t deserve it.  We think that if we can only be good enough or do the right things, God and others would love me more.  What Jesus makes absolutely clear over and over again, is that God loves you how God made you and that God’s love is already yours.  You don’t need to earn it.  It is simply given to you because that is who God is. 

One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture is in our Gospel reading today.  It is verse 16 when Jesus says: “You did not choose me but I chose you.”  All over within Christianity I hear about how we are supposed to choose Jesus.  If only we could say the right words and be a better person, then we’d know we are saved. 

All the focus is on me and my personal relationship with Jesus.  But Jesus makes it clear that this is not what a relationship with him is all about.  Jesus says, “I choose you.  I choose you as you are with all the crap in your life.  And I love you and it is a love that no one can take away from you.  And because I love you, you are to love and care for one another.”

When I think about it, the two most important things a friend can do for me is to love me for who I am and to remind me of the hope and promises I have in Jesus. 

In Luke chapter 8 (vs. 19-21), Jesus’ mother and brothers come to see him, “but they could not reach him because of the crowd.  20 And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you."  21 But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

“This is my commandment,” Jesus says in our Gospel reading, “that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15.12).”  Jesus redefines what it means to be a friend and what we should expect from a friend.

It is an interesting thing to be commanded to love.  If love was merely an emotion, it could not be commanded.  I can’t look at you right now and say, “Be angry.  Be sad.  Be happy,” and you feel those emotions.  Love can be commanded if it is something we do in action, word, and deed.  The command to love is not meant to be burdensome, but rather to give us joy.  And God gives what God commands: Love.

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated all around the world.  It is meant to be a day that celebrates the love between a parent and child and all the sacrifices that come with it.  However, for some it is a difficult day if one’s mother has died, or if one has had a lousy mother, or no mother. 

Here in this congregation, we recognize that life circumstances are not perfect and not everyone has had a parent who has loved them well.  Therefore, we have nurturing day in which we recognize that even if you didn’t have ideal home environments or parents, there are still people in the world who care about you and love you.  There are people who long to be your friend.

Jesus holds friendship above biological family, even marriage.  At the core of who we are, we are loved by God and are to love one another and this is defined as friendship.

Perhaps this is why I love the saying on the card so much.  A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails. 

For me, this saying is about hope; it is about a deep longing within our chests to be loved, for things to be made right, for suffering and loneliness to end.  There are many things in life that cause us to forget that Jesus loves you and me and that he beckons us to love one another.  That is why friendship is so important.  We get to remember this great love together.

Jesus chooses you.  Jesus loves you.  This is by far the greatest gift we can receive.  The joy comes when we share this love with one another and realize that we have always had it.