Abide in My Love John 15

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					Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.




Throughout John‟s Gospel Jesus gives his disciples only one commandment: Love

        one another as I have loved you. This is an extremely tall order: To love as

        Jesus loves means to love our friends deeply enough that we are willing to

        give up our lives for them.


The Gospel we hear today is the 2nd half of Jesus‟ Vine and Branches dialogue: I

        am the Vine, He says to his disciples, and you are the branches. We feed

        each other, are fed by one another, as we are sustained by Christ‟s nurturing

        love.


We spiritually resemble each other, and are all imprinted with the same Holy DNA

        of our Creator.


When you look closely at a grape vine you cannot distinguish where exactly the

        vine ends and the branches begin. Jesus‟ ideal community is so bound up

        with one another that this relatedness is more important than individuality.


This is a very hard concept for our western minds to grab hold of. For John, the

        primary focus of his Gospel is for us to come to believe in Jesus, through

        whom we stay continually, eternally connected to God.


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We see this relationship most clearly in Jesus‟ intimate return to his own people

      through his passion, resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit.


Sandra Schneiders , author of one of the most influential books I read in seminary,

called “Written that You May Believe: encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel”,

writes,


    “Now, in John’s Gospel Jesus says that the new commandment, and the
    sign of authentic discipleship, that is, that we love one another as Jesus has
    loved us, has no more perfect form than the laying down of one’s life for
    one’s friends. To lay down one’s life is the ultimate preferring of another’s
    good to one’s own.”
In other words, it is in this act of service – in a way that prefers another human

being over oneself – that we abide in Jesus‟ love and become one with him. This

self-giving love is what Jesus calls “friendship.” Jesus says,


    “I no longer call you servants, or slaves, but friends, because I have made
    known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”
We are called to be in an extraordinary friendship with Christ, who lives in an

      extraordinary friendship with God the Father. We are invited as equals into

      a mutual indwelling – Schneiders calls it a “total sharing of being and life”

      with God, through Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.


Jesus says, Abide in my love. Make my love your home. These words are

      especially potent for me as I contemplate leaving my temporary home here

      in New York City. I‟ve become very attached to the loving Vine of this

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      Church of the Transfiguration. I‟m also connected to my friends at The

      General Theological Seminary. Sam and I graduate on Wednesday and our

      class will scatter to the four winds. Abide in my love, says Jesus.

It helps to look at others who have gone before me. Very few explain the principle

      of abiding love better than the exceptional medieval mystic: Julian of

      Norwich.


Thomas Merton called Julian one of the greatest of the English mystics.

She lived in the 14th Century as an anchorite; which meant that she was sealed into

      a „tomb‟ of a cell that was attached, or anchored, to a church in Norwich,

      England where she remained enclosed until her death. Her community

      would have held a ceremony to seal her into her living tomb in the fashion of

      a funeral service. Some anchorites even had a coffin placed in the cell with

      them to remind them of their death to the world.

Julian entered her tomb as an act of friendship with God, and with her community.

      She laid down her life for her friends in a very distinct and unusual way that

      had some dramatic results – in her own day and for us in the 21st century.


The 14th century was a time of great turmoil, unrest and disaster – there were the

      Peasant Revolts, the Great Schism of the Papacy, and the Black Death.

      Death, tragedy, disorientation, and decay were a part of everyday life.
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The community desperately needed her, enclosed in her cell, to be their lightening

       rod to God. Through an official contract with the citizens of Norwich, Julian

       promised to pray for her community. And like a lightening rod, if evil, death

       or disease was headed their way they believed that she would receive the full

       impact on their behalf.


When Julian was 30 years old, she became desperately ill. While near death, she

       received a series of 16 visions, or „showings‟ upon which she meditated and

       wrote about for the next 20 years of her life. It was these „showings‟ that

       propelled her into her little tomb – in order to meditate on what they meant.

       Her call was to unpeel the onion of her visions in order to find the

       surprisingly simple truth of God.


       Her writings are known as the Revelation of Divine Love. They have been

compared to Chaucer for their deft command of Middle English and for their

rhetorical art.


Her theology is extraordinary for its emphasis on the loving nature of God, the

redemptive quality of sin, and the loving, abiding, activity of our Trinitarian God.


We are asked to abide in Christ as he abides in the Father. Julian realized that

       Jesus abides in his Father through the same dancing, symbiotic, love

       relationship that spills all over us as it draws us to him.

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Like the metaphor of the Vine and the Branches, when we abide in Christ we are

      bound to each other by the same sap, or creative force that feeds Christ. We

      are drawn into a love relationship within and among the Persons of the

      Trinity.


It was revealed to Julian that God loves us so much that we cannot disappoint Him.

      We are an extension of God‟s love so that even when we fall and make self-

      centered errors and careless missteps, God continues to love and encourage

      us without pause. Our abiding in God‟s love is not something that we have

      to earn or have any control over. We abide in Christ, who abides in God

      because we were created in order to be loved by God.


Julian uses the Middle English understanding of the word „kind‟ to explain our

friendship with God. „Kind‟ – 3 separate meanings:


    Benevolence: – gracious or „kind‟

    Sharing a common nature, as in family, or „kin‟, „kindred‟

    The particular nature of something, as in „humankind‟


Julian intends all of these meanings when she writes about the Kindness of God

inviting us to abide with him. She writes that it is the Kindness of God which

becomes the ground from which creation springs, and to which creation returns.



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Julian experiences God‟s very nature as a self-communicating loving goodness that

      overflows from its source, enriching the world with its abundance – and

      carrying an imprint of God-kindness upon both creatures and creation.

The most surprising thing to me when I study Julian of Norwich is that she was

      able to write such exceptionally beautiful theology while caring for streams

      of visitors. She didn‟t hide away in her cell, but made herself available for

      spiritual direction to such an extent that she became quite famous in her day.

      From a tiny, curtained window in her cell she received a nearly constant

      stream of visitors. The high-strung Margery Kempe wrote about her visit

      with Julian in her famous diary.


This is the wisdom I will be taking with me as I leave New York City: Julian was

      clear that only in serving her community as a spiritual friend could she fulfill

      her individual call as one who abides. We are all the community of those

      who abide in God‟s love. We keep God‟s commandments by listening to

      what Love is calling us to do. We each have unique gifts. We lay down our

      lives for our friends by doing exactly what Julian did.


She prayed. She took the action she believed God was asking her to take. She

      made herself available to her friends, even at the cost of her own private

      prayer time, in order to share about the abundant love of God in troubled


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     times. And she was not afraid to speak love into the wind of misery. As she

     experienced God‟s love for her, she shared that love in person, and in her

     treatises.

As much as I fear leaving what has become home to me, I know that my own

     spiritual direction practice is waiting for me in GA. I know that my religious

     order and my GA diocese are where God wants me to live out my gifts. I

     will lay down my New York life, which has been so abundant and rich,

     knowing that I leave behind the same Body of Christ that awaits me in GA.

     We are all imprinted in God‟s Kindness, we are God‟s kin, and are bound to

     humankind in community wherever we go.


   Julian wrote: „For the almighty truth of the Trinity is our father, for he
   made us and keeps us in him. And the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our
   mother, in whom we are enclosed. And the high goodness of the Trinity is
   our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us. We are enclosed in the
   Father, we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit.
   And the Father is enclosed in us, the Son is enclosed in us, and the Holy
   Spirit is enclosed in us, all power, all wisdom, and all goodness, one God,
   one Lord.” Amen




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