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7, Year B, 24.5.09, St Mark’s
1 John 5.9-13:
John 17.6-19: (1256)
(God's love reigning in our hearts casts out all our fears and frees us for witness.)
We have had Easter Day, last Thursday was the Ascension, and next Sunday
is Pentecost. In a sense we may say that Easter celebrates a Raising, Ascension
celebrates a Going, and Pentecost celebrates both a Coming and an Abiding.
And we are invited to all of these.
Easter celebrates a Raising: a raising of Jesus from the dead and a
raising of us into new life when we were baptized into Christ's death.
Ascension celebrates a going of Jesus to the Father and an invitation and
opportunity for us to go with him as we grow up into the fullness of the stature
Pentecost will celebrate the Coming and Abiding of the Holy Spirit through whom
we know Christ's coming and abiding in and with us.
the past two Sundays as well as today we have had readings from the Gospel of
John drawn from what have long been called the Farewell Discourses, which range
from chapters 13 to 17. As the name
implies, they present Jesus as saying that he is going away to the Father and
what the result will be, namely, that the Spirit will be sent to the disciples.
In today’s reading from chapter 17 Jesus addresses the Father in what
is known as the High Priestly Prayer. In
it, as we have heard, he asks the Father to keep the disciples safe in the world
as he sends them forth.
But the essence of that safety has been spelled out earlier in chapter
15, when Jesus, speaking of himself as the vine, has said, “Abide in me and I
in you, for apart from me you can do nothing” (15.5).
And this is spoken of again here in a little further on in the High
Priestly Prayer when he says, "I made your name known to them, and I will
make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and
I in them." So Jesus is
going, and yet he is abiding.
Earlier in the Farewell discourse Jesus is presented as
saying: "I am going to the Father".
Then, after saying that the disciples will be scattered he says,
"Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me."
"I am going to the Father" and at the same time,
"The Father is with me."
So there is a going and an abiding, just as we are called
to follow Jesus and to be with him.
It is the Christian experience, as expressed by the
Fourth Gospel, the Gospel according to John, that the arriving lies in the
going. That is, it is as we follow after
Jesus in the way that leads to the Father so we know both Jesus and the
Father with us already. And
this abiding is an abiding in love, the Father's love as made perfectly known in
So the abiding is an abiding in love, and the going is a
going in love. And it is the abiding
that makes possible the going, for, even in purely human terms, it is only as we
are loved that we learn to love and are empowered to love.
New-born babies are self-centred. Unless
they are loved, they never learn to love. As
1 John expresses it: "We love because He first loved us."
This letter, which is from the same community as the 4th Gospel, goes on
to say, "Perfect love casts out fear."
That is, it is love, and love alone, that can free us from all our
hang-ups - that can free us from concern for my rights, my perks, my justice;
that frees us from the need to look out for Number One, namely, myself.
In short, it is love that frees us to love.
Which means to give ourselves for others for their welfare and well-being
without counting the cost. As St
Paul expresses it in his letter to the Galatians, "I have been crucified
with Christ; it is no longer I (ego) who live, but Christ who
lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son
of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
And as Jesus' going to the Father in the way of love has
been a going in the way of the cross, so as we go in him who is for us The Way,
the Truth and the Life, so our going as well is a going in the way of the cross.
It is a dying to ourselves and all our pretensions and a living in the
self-same total trust in the Father that we have seen in Christ.
All four of our Gospels emphasize that Jesus reigns as
king precisely from the cross. So,
if we are to participate in his reign, then it will be as, and only as, we go
with him, and in him, as members of his Body, in the way that he goes to the
Father, in the Way of the Cross. And
we shall do this day by day just as Jesus has done it, not in our own strength,
but in the strength of the Father's love, for "the Father loves you
It is the reign of God's love in our hearts, strengthened
and renewed at the Lord's Table, as we feed on him who gave his life for us and
for all - it is this reign of love that frees us to die to ourselves that we may
live for others - it is this love that casts out our fears -
We are freed from the fear of rejection: because we are the beloved we
can reach out to those in need even if they reject us.
We are freed from the fear of failure: because we are so deeply loved, we
don't have to succeed, therefore we are freed to try even when we may fail.
And when we fail for whatever reason, we are freed to say, “I am
sorry” – “It was my fault.”
- ”I apologise.”
We, the beloved, the reconciled, are given, in
This is how we reign with Jesus, this is how he abides in
us, and this is how we go with him to the Father.