So Simple and Yet Not 5-10-15

In this sermon based on John 15:9-17 I explore Jesus commandment to love one another and that this is how we abide in the love of God.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
We all have things in life that we are good at…things that take little to no effort to achieve…things where we excel…and for me, all the way through school…math was one of those things for me. I had a knack for it…I could pick up a lesson easily…and complete the daily assignment while others in the class were still listening to the teacher explaining the process for solving whatever type of problem it was that we were working on.
And one thing that I always enjoyed was how the process of learning math was cumulative…one thing pretty much always relied on the previous lessons that we had learned…going all the way back to the simple equation that pretty much any kindergarten student can solve…that 1 + 1 = 2. This notion that if you have 1 thing…and you put it together with another thing…then you have 2 things…Simple right?
And yet as the years went by and the lessons continued…things got more complicated…additional and subtraction of single digits leads to multiplication…and then long division…and then onto to things like fractions…and least common denominators…and conversions of measurements…and we keep going into algebraic expressions…solving for the unknown…and then onto geometry…and writing out complex proofs using concepts like the prothagorian theorm…and while that was about the extent of where my mathematical education ended…I know that it goes far beyond my understanding to things like quantum mechanics…used to calculate the behavior of things as big as the universe and as tiny as sub-atomic particles.
And I’ve been thinking about this type of thing lately…this notion that in mathematics, everything continues to build on the lessons that have come before…because there are many days when I sit at the table with my son, helping him work through his math homework…and its been a good reminder for me to see how one lesson builds on the previous lesson…to remember why its so important to learn these various ideas and notions and processes…because understanding the next one is going to depend on you first understanding this one…and all of it…every single bit of it all the way up to that super complex stuff that we catch glimpses within the conversations on Big Bang Theory…trickles all the way back to that simple expression that I mentioned earlier…that if you have one thing…and you put it together with another thing…you have two things… 1+1=2.
Simple right…absolutely…until I drop the bomb that even between these two incredible simple numbers…1 and 2, there is an infinite amount of values…and infinite amount of numbers that lie between 1 and 2. (pause) So simple…and yet…not (pause) Mind blown? Yah…mine too. (pause)
Now I bring all this up for two reasons…First off…this idea that in math, one thing builds on the thing before…and even though they might seem very similar, you have to go through one before you can get to the other…and this is where I’m going to connect into the gospel lesson for today…John 15:9-17…which if you were here last week…probably sounds extremely familiar…and it should…because last week’s gospel was John 15:1-8…and pretty much everything about these two different lessons is pretty similar….same setting…same person talking…same audience…(pause) same subject matter.
Jesus talking to the disciples at the last supper…just before his arrest and death…talking about the notion of abiding. (pause) And so if you were sitting there a moment ago as I read the gospel thinking man this sounds familiar…it should…because there was no break in the action…Jesus was sitting there at supper with the disciples talking…and he probably didn’t even pause for a breathe between verse 8 and verse 9, even though for us today, a week has gone by between hearing “my father is glorified in this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” and “as the father has loved me, so I loved you.”
But here’s the big connection…last week we heard about abiding…about being in relationship…about remaining with God…being connected to God just as the branches of a grape are connected to the vine and to the roots…last week we talked a lot about that…about just what it means to be connected…to remain…why its important…and how we do it. (pause)
And now this week, Jesus moves forward…building on what we heard before and adding to it just a little bit more…for Jesus tells us to abide…in his love…the love that originated from the Father…that moves through the relationship between the father and the son…and likewise from the son to each one of us…abide in his love. (pause)
At first glance…it sounds pretty simple right? So simple that someone much smarter than me wrote a song that pretty much every preschool student in Sunday School can likely sing for you. (sing) Jesus loves me this I know…for the Bible tells me so…
And so we rest in the love of Jesus…the love of God that offered freely to each and one of us…easy right? Its so simple…except…not. (pause)
And here’s the second reason that I started off today by talking about math…because abiding in the love of God is both super easy…and super complicated all at the same time…just like math. (pause)
Because just what it mean? This statement…this order…this commandment of Jesus to abide in the love of God? What does it really mean? To be loved by the creator of the universe…to be the object of love and affection…to be the object of delight in the eyes of the one that made us? And how do we LIVE in that love? Is it simple enough to profess it…that yes, I am a beloved child of God?
Or does it go beyond that? To the point that we have to understand it…that we have to know where it comes from…or why? Or How? Is that a requirement…a prerequisite to abiding in the love of God expressed through Jesus Christ? (pause)
Or on the flip side…is it really as easy as it sounds? Yes Jesus loves me. (pause) It can’t be that simple can it? It has to be way more complicated than that right? (pause) I’ve posed that question before…and actually many times downstairs during education time as we’ve explored the scriptures together…can it really be that simple…can it really boil all the way down to that simple notion that God loves me? (pause)
Because if that’s really the case…then why the heck is this book (hold up the Bible) so darn thick? (pause) Why are there so many stories…and rules…and prophecies…why are there so many examples of God’s judgement…and of people going to war…of oppression and pain and suffering all within this one big thing often times called “The Good Book.” How can that be? (pause) And can we really boil it all down to the simple notion of God loves me? (pause)
And here’s the kicker…here’s how I answer that question whenever I encounter it…either from someone else…or when it pops up within my own head…yes and no. (pause) And yes you heard correctly…can we boil down all of scripture and faith and the church and the questions and answers and theology and dogma and liturgy and sacraments and everything in between to God loves me…yes…and…no.
Because faith is both incredibly easy….while simultaneously being the most mind blowingly complicated thing that I have ever encountered. (pause) But I think Jesus knew that…when he was addressing the disciples…because as he starts talking about abiding in the love of God, he gives us something that actually seems to serve as a pretty straightforward command…instructions that aren’t really that difficult to understand…and in true Jesus fashion…he repeats himself a couple times. Keep my commandments…and you will abide in my love…and this is the commandment…love each other. Period. (pause)
Simple right…and yet…not. (pause) Simple because at first glance love seems easy…and when we are in a situation where there is mutual love…well then it is simple…because its easy to return love for love…but Jesus talks about more than that…and Jesus tells us that we are to love everyone…even those that hate us…and the amazing thing about it is that we see Jesus boil down all of that stuff…theology and doctrine and rules and regulations in one simple statement…Lord, what is the most important commandment…Love God…and then love your neighbor as yourself…period. (pause)
Its not conditional…its not contingent…Jesus simply instructs us to love each other…that’s how we abide…and that is how the world will see that we are something different…that we are something new…that the love of God expressed in Christ Jesus within our lives as believers has made us into something other than what we were before…that we love where the world hates and schemes and plots…that the light of Christ does shine in our lives…in and through the darkness that we all experience and at times…embody.
And in the midst of all this…that our joy…that joy we find in knowing that there is more than what we can see now…that there is hope for the life to come…that we are not alone in the midst of the pain and sorrow that we experience in this life…that this joy is just another sign that we are abiding in the love of God…and finally this joy in knowing that all of this…is not up to us in the first place.
Jesus tells us that we do NOT choose him…but he has chosen us…he has loved US first…and asks only that we mirror that love outwards…that we reflect the love of God for us…so that this world of darkness may see His light…may witness His love…and one glorious day ALL the world may come to know that this love we reflect…this love we abide in…this love of God that we claim…is intended for all the world…each and every one individual…because we are each fearfully and wonderfully made by the one that delights in us…
That’s faith…that’s abiding…both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult all at the same time…but praise be to God that we don’t have to understand it to make it true…we just have to live in it…regardless of if we think its simple…or not…Amen.

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