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Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Rogation Sunday)

May 9th, 2021

“I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

The Gospel of John, from which we have been reading through the Easter season, emphasizes in a way that the other Gospels do not a particular figure mentioned six times only obliquely – the beloved disciple, or sometimes, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

The Beloved Disciple is clearly, based on John’s descriptions of his relationship with Jesus, Jesus’ closest and most beloved friend.

In the 13th chapter of John at the Last Supper the beloved disciple is said to be reclining next to or even on Jesus, laying his head on Jesus’ chest or shoulder, a position of great and profound intimacy.

It is this same beloved disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, to whom he gave his Mother from the cross to be cared for, “Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

And it is this same disciple who outruns Peter to peer into the empty tomb on Easter morning who, when he peered into the tomb, believed.

Since about the end of the first century it has been widely believed that the Beloved Disciple is John the Evangelist himself, the one who wrote the Gospel of John [and after whom this church is called]. In a similar way, Mark writes about a young man who at the time of Jesus’ arrest was following Jesus, whom the authorities tried to seize but the young man escaped his clothing and fled naked. Many believe this young man was Mark himself, written into the Gospel.

At any rate, in this season after Easter, our readings draw us into thinking deeply about the nature of love. The love that is made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection; the love that Jesus has for us, shown through his death on the cross; and the love that we are meant to have for one another.

The Gospel, and all the readings today, want us to consider the nature of love and the nature of friendship.

And when you think of friendship, when you think of your best friends, when you think of friendship at its very best – what does it look like?

I think it looks like mutual support and love.

It looks like a joy in sharing in another’s company.

It looks like a shoulder on which you can cry and an ear to which you can share the deepest thoughts and feelings of your mind and your heart.

Friendship at its best is a give-and-take. We rejoice in receiving and in giving to our friend – whether it is time or gifts or support.

Our friends are those whom we long to be with when we’ve been parted from them for a long time, sometimes even as much as we miss and long for our family members.

And so what a remarkable thing that Jesus, in John’s Gospel today, refers to us as friends.

So often in our thinking about God we think of God’s greatness, His majesty, grandeur, immensity, how far beyond our ability to conceive of Him God seems to be.

Yet at the same time God comes to us, eats with us, walks with us, talks with us, and God calls us friends.

These are not the words of a God who rules over us by domination, this is not a God that is looking for us to serve him as slaves. This isn’t a God like those of the Greeks or Romans, somewhere else, unconcerned with all the goings-on of our lives, big and small.

These are the words of a God who invites us to know Him as a friend, “I do not call you servants any longer…but I have called you friends…” These are the words of a God who enters into our life as someone close to us, familiar to us, to whom we can draw very near, and who will know the inner secrets of our hearts, and each one of our joys and sadnesses.

As I said earlier when we think of our friends, our best friends, what qualities can we name? Trust, caring, openness, love, self-sacrifice.

When Jesus tells us that he no longer calls us servants but friends, what he is saying is that this is the shape of our relationship to him. These things - trust, caring, love, self-sacrifice -are offered to us and we offer in return to him – trusting him in all things, being open with him about our sins and struggles, and giving our lives to and for him.

But giving these things not as debtor gives to a lender, but giving them as we do to a friend. I don’t begrudgingly share my heart with my close friends, or begrudgingly trust them, or love them – I do it joyfully.

But of course, not all of us know friendship.

Some people have experienced nothing but cruelty in their lives – from family, from friends, from their community.

Trusting and loving and being open with others may be very difficult for you. You may have a heart broken from betrayal, confident that if you befriend another they, like those before them, will hurt and abandon you.

But here is the good news we hear proclaimed by Jesus today, “You did not choose me but I chose you.”

Even if we struggle with trust and with love, even if we struggle to trust and love Jesus as our friend, even if we have been so hurt by the callousness of the world that we ourselves have become cold and callous, we can recollect that loving us and seeing us as a friend is no struggle for Jesus.

Jesus loves us.

Jesus longs for us to love him.

Jesus knows us not as a servant but as a friend, as he knew that disciple who laid on his chest at the Last Supper. Near and intimately.

The transformation of our hearts and minds, of our entire lives, comes when we are able to trust that this is true. That we are loved, that we are his friend.

In daring to trust this we find the joy Jesus talks about.

In daring to trust in this we can begin to bear the fruit of Love that he has called us to bear.

“I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

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