top of page

Easter 6 B ~ John 15:9-17 ~ "Loving One Another" ~ Rev. Richard Eslinger, PhD


This Sunday is all about love. As Jesus speaks to his disciples, and to us, in this lesson, the word, “love,” pops up at least nine times. The payoff is our Lord’s conclusions: “Love one another.” The problem is, we are immersed with a culture that uses “love” even more times than St. John, and with some many different meanings. Love is a notion that sells, we all know that. Whether a Subaru or a high-scale watch for Valentines’ Day, love is the potion that greases the gears of finance. But love is also the vacuous sentiment that crams so much social media. People “luv” their new puppy, their favorite pop song (or artist), a new special friend, or the new cola flavor. As John Lennon sang in “Yellow Submarine,” “All You Need is Love.”


Problem is, we have so many shades in the pallet of love, some of them even

contradictory. The word can mean most everything soft, squishy, and warm,…weighted with feeling. But then, too, we can shift gears and parse love into categories of “those deserving our love” and “those who don’t.” There are the extremes to our notions. One commentator put it this way: “love can be used on the one hand to describe something as trivial as a French fry and on the other hand something as profound as a parent’s care and concern for a child.” 1


On another scale, love is regarded by many as strictly subjective, a private and feeling-centered, if also “many splendored thing.” Others consider love in a more quantitative way, making decisions as to which persons are “victims” and therefore who is deserving of being loved. These categories, of course, shift with the tides. All things considered, we best not depend on the spirit of our age

to provide us with much insight into the biblical meaning of love. Our culture employs love to sell stuff, to express thoughts and feeling about people, and to define the boundaries of our social and political likes and dislikes.


Julie Holmes is a marketing and sales advisor. She teaches that the old ways of marketing a product stayed basically on the level of “does it get the job done.” If

so, people would, of necessity, buy it. But Holmes adds that today, marketers need to consider the “minimum loveable product” approach that when combined a compelling narrative “would have a user desperate to be the first in line…You need some romance. You need an experience that makes the user fall in love again with each and every interaction.” 2 Holmes is right on target about our culture’s romance with love. It sells things and, if employed in savvy ways, makes

people fall in love with a product or another person or a social cause. All you need is love along with a brilliant marketing strategy!


Turing to the words of Jesus, it is clear that this Divine love is a gift rather than

something to be marketed or bought. God’s love for us is grounded in the love between the Father and the Son within the mystery of the Holy Trinity. And just as that mystery of love within the Godhead remains—throughout all ages—so, too, we are to remain within the love of Jesus Christ. One persistent teaching related to the Holy Trinity is that the image of God in which we are created is revealed—among other ways—in the covenant of love in Christian Marriage. And just as Jesus proclaims the covenant love between God and the faithful as a gift,

so, too, partners in Christian marriage celebrate that each did not “create” or “invent” their love for each other. Rather, for both, such love is a gift, undeserved and unearned. This love between spouses is such a gift that it even foreshadows the covenant God made with the elect, God’s own people. In the Liturgy of Christian Marriage, the Nuptial Blessing states, O God, who, to reveal the great design you formed in your love, willed that the love of spouses for each other should foreshadow the covenant you graciously made with your people, so that, by fulfillment of the sacramental sign, they mystical marriage of Christ with his Church might become manifest in the union of husband and wife among your

faithful.


This incredible gift—covenantal love that foreshadows the covenant between God and God’s holy people—is a sacramental mystery and a proclamation to the world. Such love is a gift, sheer grace, and of God. It cannot be manufactured, bought or sold. There is an amazing grace that permeates such love.


But there is a further word from our Lord on the centrality of love. The Lord insists that his love for us and our love for him and each other is woven together with his commands into a seamless garment. At the heart of the matter is Jesus’ command that we love one another, just as he loves us. To command that this love abide is to locate it at the opposite end of the spectrum from the world’s approach to love someone or something until we do not, until something else

comes along that lures us away. One couple proposed to the minister that the vows at their wedding should state “as long as love lasts.” Sadly it didn’t… To abide in love of Christ, to abide in love for one another involves a constancy of words and actions that are the matrix of the biblical covenant. Here is the mystery at the heart of such covenant love: it comes as a gift and with it comes an election, a choosing by God. We are now friends and not slaves, called into a full knowledge of the risen Christ. And since the fullness of this love comes, not in sentimentality, but laying down his life for us all, the cross stands at the heart of covenant love.

Christ’s sacrifice is at the heart of the Son’s love for us. The world regards such cruciform love as weakness or folly, St. Paul proclaims. But we cannot divorce Christ’s love for us and our love for each other from his self-giving, and his sacrificial death.


In The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis tells of four children, removed from London during the Blitz, who discover a large wardrobe in the house where they are staying. Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund follow the wardrobe into a world where the White Witch rules and it is always winter. The animals of that world have been turned into stone and they mark the bleak terrain like cemetery headstones. In this world, Edmund’s self-centered character is on full display and he succumbs to the witch’s enticement of Turkish Delight. He becomes, as we would say, addicted to the sweet stuff and becomes an instrument of the White Witch’s battle against Narnia’s ruler, the lion Aslan. Peter, Susan, and Lucy have enough knowledge of good and evil to resist the witch’s call for them to come to her castle. But Edmund does go, forsaking his siblings and the side of good. He is a traitor and, as the Witch announces, his blood must belong to her alone. Aslan, however, offers himself in place of Edmund’s life and soul. The White Witch immediately accepts Aslan’s offer; he will die on behalf of Edmund and all the world’s evil and darkness. In fact, Aslan does die.


But not long afterward, the children have remained at the place of his death and are surprised with the return—shall we say a resurrection—of Aslan. Edmund is saved from his fate, the witch is banished, and the frozen animals begin to thaw and are returned to life. One writer adds, “We cannot trick a love like this. It won’t sacrifice itself so we can eat more Turkish Delight. This kind of love makes sacrifices to save life itself.” 3 It is such love we celebrate in the Holy Eucharist this day. Christs sacrifice is for each one of us “Edmunds,” but it is also for the whole

world. The White Witches of our own day may have the power to turn the creation into ice and stone for a while. But Jesus’ sacrifice settles the matter. Love has this cross-shaped form of sacrifice and it will abide. And because of the sacrifice of Jesus, our lives are forgiven, restored, and become at one with all creation.


So we hear Jesus’ words now: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” We have been elected by Christ into this covenant of love and gifted with the abundance of Divine compassion. Called to abide in that love so that our joy may be complete. We give thanks, make Eucharist, as Christ’s own flock, priest and people, and are given the joy of salvation. Praise be to our God forever and ever. Alleluia.

Amen.


1 Michael Chan, “Rethinking Love,” Working Preacher, May 2, 2021, https://www.workingpreacher.org/dear-working-preacher/rethinking-love


2 Julie Holmes, “What Makes People Fall in Love with Products,” Linkedin, June 27, 2017, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-makes-people-fall-love-products-julie-holmes-


3 Barbara Stevens, “Love in the Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe,” Spiritual and Emotional Themes, Feb. 4, 2023, https://urcpdx.org/love-in-the-lion-witch-and-wardrobe/

20 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page