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"From the Pulpit" - May 4, 2024

"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church

John 15:9-17

[Jesus said:] 9“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 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. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."

                                                         from our gospel for Sunday, May 5th, 2024

"A Beer...You'd Love to Have a Beer With"

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.

There's a billboard on Rt. 1 South just above Fort Pierce with the above slogan on it - "A Beer You'd Love to Have a Beer With".. It's a Miller Beer billboard and it always catches my attention as I head home from the church or elsewhere in Vero Beach daily. Ever seen this billboard? I haven't seen one in Vero, but there may be one.

Anyhow, as I read it, it evokes in me a warm, fuzzy feeling.  Friends gathered around the local bar, a la "Cheers" the TV sitcom.  Or friends gathered at a sports bar, rooting on their favorite team, cheering when their team scores the winning touchdown, or run, or goal, or whatever.  Or friends getting together for a reunion, or other gathering.

The word "friend" today has such a different meaning than it did in the time and culture of Jesus' day.  We have "friends" on Facebook or other social media outlets, many, or most of whom, we don't even know, and would never hang out with.  We say we have "friends" at work, but we never would think of socializing with them beyond the workplace.

The term "friend" in the Greek tradition, at the time of Jesus, comes from the root, "companion" as we know it.  Breaking down that word, it looks something like this - "com" or with in English; and "panis" or bread. Think of Panera bread the restaurant, right near Target.  A friend, or companion, was someone you'd invite into your house to break bread with. To share a meal with. Think of the number of times in the Jesus story where Jesus breaks bread with his disciples, his neighbors, and even strangers.  It's a very intimate, and trusting act.  You wouldn't invite just anyone into your home to share a meal with, more than likely.

So, as Jesus is about to ascend to the Father in heaven, he changes his language about his relationship with them, from "servants" (people in a more or less "transactional" relationship), to one of companion, or friend, or someone he's intimate with through sharing a meal. It's hard to overstate this change in his relationship with his disciples, and us, as he prepares to leave them one last time.

This relationship with his disciples now changes from one of "buddies" or servants, to one of companion. And this new relationship is one of "action", of doing something.  He says to them, and to us now, that loving one another requires "action". Laying down one's life for one's friends.  Bearing fruit.  Taking up one's cross. Keeping Jesus' commandments. Actions. Doing. 

These are the tangible signs of love of "friends".

This is a very critical turn in the whole gospel story, for his disciples, and for us, because Jesus now defines what "loving your neighbor" is.  It is a faith, active in love.  Intimate. Close.  Just as Jesus' love for us is.

So "love" for Jesus, as he's about to ascend into heaven, takes on a new meaning for both the disciples, and now, us, some 2,000 years later.  Love is "action", doing.  Active.  It's no longer just a warm fuzzy feeling like that Miller Beer billboard that evokes warm fuzzy feelings of folks gathered around the bar at the local watering hole.  This is a turning point in the gospel story for a number of reasons. First, Jesus is about to leave his friends behind. He wants them to clearly understand the meaning of "love" as an active, rather than a passive thing.  And second, he wants them to engage in the world he leaves behind. 

I'll say more on this tomorrow during my message. Check it out. Amen? Amen.

Pastor Greg

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