A reflection on John 15:9-17 by The Rev. Karla Miller
Abide in my love.
Love one another as I have loved you.
You are my friends.
I chose you.
Love one another.
Abide in my love.
There is a sculpture in a garden in Arizona that depicts God’s hand. It looks like God’s hand is coming out of the ground, palm up and cupped, with a child, feet on the ground just resting her body in the hollow of God’s hand. It looks like she is hugging God’s hand, while God is supporting you. I love how the sculpture is grounded in the earth, and yet a depiction of the love of God. I don’t know the title of the sculpture, but if I were to give it a title, it would be, “Abide in My Love.”
The gospel text for this week is all about abiding, living in the love of Christ. Jesus tells his followers, love one another, as I have loved you. I now call you friends—and I chose you. Bear fruit. Abide.
It’s a beautiful passage, layered in meaning and intent. When Jesus calls the disciples his friends, he is giving a high social value to his relationship with them. In antiquity, the “friends” of the governor shared in the power of the ruler, vicariously. It gave them clout, influence, status—because of who they knew. Jesus is saying, yes, you are my friends, and you share the influence I have had on you—to love deeply, counter-culturally, and recklessly—to the point of self-giving, in spite of what it costs. That’s the love you will abide in, as my friends.
Reckless, counter-cultural love is not something often experienced, is it? Have you ever been on the receiving end of such fierce love?
Over twenty years ago, just out of college and living in a state where I had no close relatives nearby, I suffered from profound clinical depression. I was in therapy, and doing some really important work, but the well was cavernous, and I was at the bottom. Fortunately, I was in a “Women In Ministry” group that was comprised of six women either in professional ministry, or volunteering in youth ministry. We all were about the same age, and an older woman was our leader and mentor and sage. We were sister friends. One evening, after our group meeting, I was bone tired and emotionally exhausted, and tearful. My sister friends took charge. First, they called my boss to tell him that I wouldn’t be at work the next day. Then, they put me to bed, and everyone piled on top of me and held me through the night as I cried tears that came from subterranean places within me that I didn’t know existed. I will never forget that feeling of a web of love surrounding me in my deepest pain, like a protective shell of a turtle. Their boundless love expressed, was healing.
I understood that evening truly what the commandment to love one another mean. Certainly, my neediness was not convenient—my sister friends had their own careers, it was in the middle of the week, a couple of them were married with spouses at home waiting—but because they understood the love of Christian community, because they knew how small and frightened and desperately desolate I was, they were able to give of themselves, in order that I might experience the fruit of new life--
--A new life where I knew that I was chosen by God, to be friend, follower and reckless lover of all creation.
Abide in my love, Jesus says. Love one another.
May God’s love abide in you this week, as you abide in God.