Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter: http://lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Easter/BEaster6_RCL.html
Jesus’ words for us today are a continuation of what we began last week (and pair well with Tuesday’s and Thursday’s posts). Jesus is in Jerusalem with his closest disciples. He’s washed their feet and had what would be their last meal together before his arrest. And one of his closest disciples leaves to betray him for a few pieces of silver.
Jesus takes this opportunity to talk with them about love and joy and life. If you knew someone close to you was going to betray you and that most of the friends you were having supper with would run at the first sign of trouble and even deny knowing you, what would you talk with them about?
We need to hear Jesus’ words of love and joy and life as well.
Jesus tells us plainly that it is God’s love for us that enables us to love others as Jesus loves.
And to make sure we really get it so that we can live it, Jesus provides us with the two-fold purpose for the directive to love as as he loves:
“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
“I give you these commands so that you can love each other.”
Joy is cultivated in love and love grows from joy. Does that make your head swim? It messes with our western, modern, linear, binary thinking. Which is exactly what Jesus’ words are intended to do: to challenge our worldview and way of thinking.
We are accustomed to talking about what makes us happy. Happiness is based on our circumstances. We say things like ‘that new job will make me happy’ and ‘going on this vacation will make me happy’ and ‘baking makes me happy’ and ‘helping others makes me happy’. Happiness is dependent on something outside of us. Happiness is about doing.
Joy is about our being. Joy comes with remaining in God’s love, knowing at our very core that we are beloved children of God. Joy is a choice to live in the confident hope of God’s goodness. Joy remains regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
The word we translate as ‘complete’ means ‘full’ or ‘filled up’. Joy is something that fills us from within. When we live from the foundation of God’s love for us (remaining or abiding in God’s love), we are enabled to love God and our neighbor and ourselves as Jesus commands us to. And the more we love, the more love we have to give and the more love we give the more our joy is filled up, even if we aren’t feeling particularly happy about what’s happening around us or to us.
This is the abundance of life that Jesus promises us when we follow him.
We cannot pursue joy as we try to pursue happiness. We come to know this holy joy as we let go of our own desires and seek to do all that we do for the purposes of bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. In God’s Kingdom there is only love and justice. In God’s Kingdom we work together with God’s help so that everyone has what they need. This doesn’t mean we won’t have anything but that what we do have will exceed our own personal desires.
And here’s one more thought to mess with our way of thinking: We aren’t equipped to do the things Jesus tells us to do once we enter God’s Kingdom; loving others as Jesus loves is what brings about God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus says the Kingdom of God is at hand, right here with us, and he tells us how to be in God’s Kingdom now.
Know that God loves you as God loves Jesus. Live in that love. In the fullness of the joy that God’s love creates in you, love others as Jesus loves. Amen.