Rev. Alex Wilson
May 6, 2018
Rev. Alex Wilson
Vicar

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Reference

John 15: 9-17

Are you ever going to sit down and join us, I said to a friend at a dinner party. Oh, I just have a few more things to get ready so we can have a good dinner together. A few more things, I thought to myself as I looked over a heavily laden table full of food. I admit by this time I was getting a little annoyed, since the host had been in the kitchen for most of the 2 hours that we had been there, and I just really wanted to spend time with this person and catch up. They are an incredible host though, you know the kind where your glass is never empty and the food is always amazing, yeah- that’s my friend. So as the last guest left, the final candle was blown out and I brought the last plate into the kitchen I asked my friend “why do you spend so much time in the kitchen rather than with us?” Rather sheepishly they said, “because I love you all so much I always want to make sure I can show you just how much you mean to me through amazing service.” Amazing service. Wow, I thought. Amazing service. Showing how much we love by how well we do something for someone- Amazing service. Is it possible to feel love as a friend while not being a servant? It’s a question I struggle with and think we as a wider church often struggle with, how do we serve someone in love?

When we renew our baptism, there is a question that asks “will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?” Now while it is relieving that the question is answered “with God's help,” there is a sense of perfectionism in the question. Yet it draws into perspective the nature of the love we experience within ourselves. It is possible for us to feel both incredible joy and loneliness within love, sometimes because we have no experience of it ourselves or because we are too afraid to love. Loving someone or something is a risk because we must be willing to have our hearts broken when it ends, and it always ends. And yet, there is within our baptisms the idea of this perpetual love in Christ, which shows itself in our ability to see Christ in everyone we meet. It can feel like baptism calls us to Amazing service but that it can’t just be that easy, that maybe if we go above and beyond those we meet will like us and come to know Jesus. However, if we look deeper at what service in the context of Christ’s life means, it’s not in the kitchen- its at the table.

These words we hear this morning from John are in what are called the farewell discourse. Jesus is getting his community ready for his death. Its felt so recent, that whole easter moment, The joy of the palms, the wetness of the water on our feet, the sound of a hammer hitting the nails, the dark confusion of the tomb that predawn morning, and the encounter with what we thought was the gardner at the tomb. We have moved from joy, pain and disbelief into a sense of stability because we have seen Jesus again, we touched his side and watched him eat fish. Jesus in the Gospel of John is setting us up for relationship in a world that will feel weird and chaotic after he's gone. Unlike the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, who focus on a more corporate nature of the church, John is pointing to the individual nature of our relationship with Jesus. This means for us that Easter is more than just what a broad body such as a church can do, Easter and through it the inbreaking nature of the Kingdom present here in this parish, is about what our individual relationships with Christ can do as part of a wider church. The key for us in John's Gospel is how we live out that relationship at the table.

Jesus says to us this morning, that he no longer calls us servants but friends, and it is our friendships that give us the deepest joys in life. While friendships are not always easy, and they change over time as we change, that they give us is a place where we are are loved, comfortable, honoured and heard. Friends are the people we go to when we need help, or we are scared, when we have big decisions to make, or just want a coffee on a lazy saturday morning. Friends travel with us throughout our lives, even the ones we no longer see, making their place in our lives irreplaceable. Over the last sixty-five years, this parish has been a home for friendships with Jesus as we continue to grow into what it is this parish is called to do in the UBC and UEL neighbourhoods of this city. There have been moments of great pain and incredible joy but the friendships have endured and Jesus has become known in real and tangible ways for countless people ever since. In our friendships with Jesus here, we continue to see revealed before us the places we can serve out of love because of the love we have received in friendship with Jesus first. Jesus has put us first throughout his ministry, and Easter is a wonderful time for us to think about how we put Jesus first in our own life. Today begins one way for us to semi-annually reflect as individuals and a parish on that friendship with Jesus.

Over the next three weeks, we will have an opportunity to examine our own intentions towards our individual friendships with Jesus through our intentional giving for the year. God, in his grace, has given each and everyone of us time, talent and money, that allow us to live the vocation God has given each of us in this world. Over the next three weeks, we will explore what it means for us to use those gifts God has given us individually to make a proportional, sustainable and intentional annual offering to this parish via the letter I wrote which is available in the narthex after church. This is not about signing a contract or stretching yourself beyond your means to give in unhealthy ways, rather it is about exploring more deeply what John is saying to us today- we are not God's servants, blindly following without knowledge of why we do it, rather we are Jesus’ friends who have been called here to Make Disciples of all nations. Making disciples connects us back into our baptisms, which call us to love our neighbours as ourselves, something that asks us to give as we have been given.

In our baptisms we are given time, talent, and money to steward in the same love we are continually lavished throughout our lives in our friendship with Jesus. As that friendship matures and our lives are changed because of it, we begin to see and know just how important that friendship is because of how life sustaining it is. We feel sustained by it through prayer, and it is prayer I ask us into now. Pray with the letter and your friendship with Christ, a friendship grounded in the ministry of this parish. This introspection is part of a spiritual practice of giving that puts Christ at the center of our world and everyday life. When we give gladly, just as Christ did for us, we start to tune our lives into the direction of God’s purpose in our life because we start to see how our time, talent and money affect our world. Jesus this morning is asking you and me- us together- to sit with him at the table as friends and to mark that friendship in the same important way we mark the other attributes of our lives, with an intentional commitment.  Jesus holds open a chair for us at the table to day and asks us how we will show our love as he has loved us throughout his ministry, as his friend. Jesus has given us everything we need, including his life and friendship. How will you respond?