Abide In My Love

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston

 I. Defining Love

 Love.  It has been classified as both a noun and a verb.  It is both a thing and an action, it is a thing that we can give and receive, but it also an action that we as human beings can take.  The fact that it is a noun and a verb add to its complexity, part of the reason why we tend to find it hard to define.  The dictionary might define it as a deep feeling of affection, and the act of feeling and giving that affection. Love is the caring and the nurturing of one another, it is the act of giving one’s self for the growth and betterment of someone else.  We are talking about love, love that comes from the heart, love that transforms lives, love that is unconditional, and love that resides in Christ.  We are talking about love.  We as Christians, who have journeyed this Christian walk with the one we call savior, the one we call the messiah, the one we call Christ who is at the center of our faith, we have come to understand that probably the simplest definition of love is Jesus.

 II. A Mother’s Love

            It is fitting that we are talking about love on Mother’s Day.  Because many have said there is nothing like a mother’s love.  From before we enter this world, we are surrounded by a mother’s love as we are cared for, protected, and nurtured within our mother’s womb.  She gives of herself, her very body, that we might be birthed and come into being.  The Mother’s body literally becomes a host that gives the child sustenance, that gives the baby a safe space to develop and grow, and that allows the baby to thrive off her bodily organs.  She literally gives of herself that the child might grow and be nurtured.  And then she gives of herself teaching us manners and all the lessons that help us become productive members of society.  But there are also those mothers that are in our community that are not biological mothers but have nonetheless given so much of themselves that we might be nurtured and poured into.  They are adoptive mothers, aunties, supportive mentors in the community that give of themselves, give of their time, and give their hearts that we might become the best versions of ourselves. They have sat with us during late night cries, they have burned the midnight oil to help us study for school, they have driven us to countless events, and quite often have been our biggest fan.  They are our mothers and our mother like figures, and there is nothing like a mother’s love.  They read to us before we went to sleep at night, and they chased away the monsters underneath the bed. We are thankful for our mothers, because they showed us a unique kind of love.

            But is also not lost on me that some of us have lost our mothers, and we meet this day with mixed emotions with a reminder of the loving things of our mothers that brought us joy, but we grieve because we are missing their presence in our lives. And on top of that, some of us have had complicated relationships with our mothers.  In some cases, we have been neglected, the relationship has been traumatic, or the relationship has not been healthy. And when we experience these types of relationships life can be a bit difficult for the lack of a mother’s love and our lives are forever altered.  So this day, can also be a reminder of the difficulty and complexity of a mother’s love, and how love and even the lack of love can shape our lives and our being.

It is said that there is nothing like a mother’s love, and this is true we see the many ways that we are affected by a mother’s love.  But our scripture shows us there a different level of love that flows to us, in us, and through us that is characterized in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the very essence of love, love is understood in its fullest sense in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the noun of love that we give, it is what we have seen in the teachings of Jesus, it is what we find in the very essence of Jesus, and as we see love as a verb, Jesus is the deep affection that we give, the actions of Christ are what define our love within the world.

 III. Abide In Jesus

Our Scripture shows us how we as the people of God should connect ourselves to Jesus Christ, abide in him and allow his love to flow through us.  Our scripture this morning is one of the last teachings of Jesus with his disciples.  It is the last “I am” statement, where Jesus is explaining the foundations of who he is in theological terms, where he is speaking in monologues to teach the disciples the theological foundations and representation of who he is. Jesus is the vine. The true vine, the source of all life, the source that gives us what we need to be who we are, and who God has called us to be.   The vine on a grapevine is the piece that is connected to, and essentially part of, the root, it extends to the fruit and it provides the fruit with nourishment and the things it needs to grow.  It takes the vitamins and nutrients from the soil and distributes it to the fruit.  It is the piece that drinks the water within the soil to reach all parts of the fruit.  The vine is an essential part of the grapevine that is necessary for the fruit to be produced.  Jesus is the vine, the true vine.  Just like the mother’s body that gives us the sustenance to grow and develop, her organs are used as the source of sustenance and the vine is just the same.  The vine’s being is used to create and nurture the branches. And we are the branches.  We are the pieces that have the ability to bear fruit and we can only do that if we abide in Jesus Christ and are shaped by his love, then we can bear fruit and the fruit that comes out will be the actions of love that Christ taught us.  This type of love is the love that shows us to be concerned about those hurting, to really see their humanity and being.  The love that shows us to love those persons that all others have rejected.  The love that shows us not to reject others because of class, gender, race, sexuality, or any other thing.  The love that will lay down one’s life for others.  The love that is unconditional.  This is what comes out of abiding in Christ and abiding in Christ’s love. Christ says to us, “Abide in my Love.” That is our directive, abide in Christ’s love, be transformed and changed by Christ, to grow from the nourishment that Christ gives us as the vine and begin to function in the ways of love that are found in Christ.  When we grow in God’s grace and grow in our faith, it is expected that our actions become more holy and reflect Christ. We are expected to abide in Christ, abide in Christ’s love, which means love becomes part of our actions and a function of our very being.  It is like when a master chef, who cooking has become part of their very being.  When they chop up vegetables, they go so fast because of the muscle memory, it has become a part of their body without thinking. However, if I tried to chop as fast, I would likely cut myself, because while I like cooking, it is not part of my being.  This is how we Abide in the love of Jesus Christ.  It must flow out of us without even thinking, we must understand what it means to show love without complex thought.  And the fruit of this is that people will grow, and people’s lives are transformed.

Jesus tells the disciples that God loves Jesus.  This statement may be confusing to some, because we know that God and Jesus are one in the same, but we also know that Jesus is the Son of God.  And as complex as that statement is, it doesn’t change the fact that God loves Jesus.  We see the love God had for Jesus when we see the moments during the life and ministry if Jesus, where God ripped the heavens open and vocally announced, “this is my Son who I am well pleased.”  But we also know that God loved Jesus so much that they were one being, their essence was one.  Jesus was God and human, Jesus was the image of what it meant to be fully connected to God. God so loved Jesus that they are one.  God loves Jesus.  And Jesus proclaims that Jesus loves us, we know that Jesus loves us because through Jesus Christ we are extended God’s grace.  We are given new life and called the children of God because Jesus Christ loved us.  And if we abide in Jesus and the love that he shows to us, then we should be able to show our love to others, to all that people we meet.  We are to be so connected to Jesus that our actions respond in the ways of Christ that feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, set the captives free, show others the ways of Christ that can give sight to those blinded by the ways of the world, to accept and affirm those that the world has forgotten, to strive for the fair treatment of all people.  We are to make the ways of Christ, our ways and abide in Christ, and Christ abide it us.  We are supposed to strive to be one with Christ.

 IV. Christ Is The Example Of Love

If we need to find an example of love, we don’t have to look any further than Jesus Christ.  If we are trying to take on the ways of Christ and live in the love that he showed us, then we must look at Christ as the ultimate example to show the lengths that love will go to.  Jesus Christ loved us so much so that he went to be slaughtered, he was beaten, bruised, broken, he bled, he was stretched on a cross, nailed to a cross, and he died.  He did all this because we as humanity were separated from our God.  And in his death, Jesus Christ restored this separation and reconciled us back to God.  But that wasn’t the end of the story.  Jesus Christ resurrected that we might find new life, that we might be transformed.  In Jesus Christ we are made whole, we are made brand new.  That hole that was created in us was made when we were separated from God, is filled when we are made whole in Christ and perfected in Christ’s love.  And when we are perfected in we see how far love can go.  When we act in Christ’s love that means we may show our love in ways that cause ourselves to offer our lives for the salvation of another, for the transformation of another, for the life of another, and for the redemption of another.

This week I posted a picture of a church marquee that said, “A kind atheist are closer to Christ than mean Christian.” This might be a controversial statement, but there is some truth to it, and it is something that we have to wrestle with.  Love is not just a thing we say or a complex notion.  It is a way of being.  It is a transformational state of being where we are made like Christ and act in his love, when we abide in Christ.  When we function in a meanness that does not reflect God’s love, we are effectively not letting Christ work within us, and we are functioning in a way that rejects the wholeness that Christ offers us.  Growing up, there was an old saying in the church that said, “Never will I let a rock cry out in my name.”  referencing Jesus’s statement in Luke as he was referring to the people that were giving him praise, and the Pharisees getting upset at their praise.  He says that if those that were giving him praise were silent, the rocks would cry out in their place and give Jesus praise.  Now when I reference this I am not saying that atheists are rocks, no they are human beings.  And we should treat them as such, with love, kindness, and respect, even if we have a difference in belief.  But a rock has no concept of God, a rock knows not God.  And nor does and an atheist, and yet when we are silent, when we are mean to others and do not share the love of Jesus, essentially being silent about he gospel of Jesus Christ because we show the world nothing of his existence with our mean hearted spirit, our rejection, our judgement, our violence, our hatred, our malicious words, then God will use the thing that logically does not know Jesus but can somehow can share his essence with the rest of the world by showing kindness and love.  They contain a piece of Christ’s love that is found missing in us when we are mean to others.  Jesus is the very definition of the love the piece that makes us whole.  So when atheist act in love, whether they realize it or not are carrying the essence of Christ with them.  So yes, the rocks are crying out, when someone who says there is no God can function in a way that is more connected to God’s love, in a way that we are called to do, but yet we are acting in meanness still claiming to be the people of God and the followers of Christ.  The question is then, will we then hear the rocks cry out and change our ways.  Will we listen to God who said, “Abide in me,” by actually abiding in him in a way that allows us to function in love and not meanness.  That means loving others and treating them with kindness, no matter what their color, background, religion, creed, or character, but it also means loving one another to point out when our actions and statements bring hurt and breed violence and hatred.  It means loving each other that we might all begin to function in the love found in Jesus Christ and it has permeated the air and becomes contagious.

Our scripture tells us that Christ loved us so much, that he chose us.  Why he loved us so much we may never know until we enter the pearly gates and sit at his feet, but we know that Christ loved us and chose us.  God reached out to us and chose us before we knew we needed Christ, Christ chose us before we knew of Christ, Christ chose us before we were being crafted in our mother’s womb, Christ loved and chose us before we were a twinkle in our Daddy’s eye.  Before we were, we were chosen and loved by God.  And for that we say thanks.  And to do that we must transform our lives and abide in Christ love.  Jesus says, “Abide in my Love” – Abide in My Love – Abide in my Love.  We say thank you to Jesus for choosing and loving us, by following God’s call on us, and that is to abide in God’s love, to transform our lives that the love of Christ flows out of us, that we might share the love of Jesus Christ with all the people that we meet.  Lord help us to be the branches, connected to the vine, receiving the nourishment that allows us to abide in Jesus and function in his love. Amen.