Easter 6 John 15: 9-17
The central words of this passage are those in which Jesus says that his disciples have not chosen him, but he has chosen them. It was not we who chose God, but God who, in his grace, approached us with a call and an offer made out of his love for us.
Out of this passage we can compile a list of things for which we are chosen and to which we are called.
First of all we are chosen for joy. However hard the Christian way of life sometimes is, it is nevertheless both in the travelling and in the goal, the way of joy. There is always a joy, a feeling of well-being, in doing the right thing. The Christian should be the man/woman of joy; for a gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all religious history has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black clothes and long faces and rules and regulations that make people feel restricted and sad. It is true that the Christian is a sinner, but we are redeemed sinners; and that is where our joy comes from. (Or should) How can anyone fail to be happy and full of joy when they walk the path of life with Jesus?
Then we are chosen for love. We are sent out into the world to love one another. Sometimes we live as if we were sent into the world to compete with one another, or to dispute with one another, or even to quarrel with one another. But as Christians we are called to live in such a way that we show what it means by loving others. We are not called to like one another; for if we are honest, there are some folks that we meet that we plain dislike and cannot seem to get on with. Yet we are called, by God in Jesus, to love them. A wise friend of mine told me long ago, that it is not possible to keep praying for someone you dislike or find difficult for any length of time without beginning to love them. As we hold people in the love of God it rubs off on us. Try it and see.
It is here that Jesus makes another of his great claims. If we were to ask him: What right have you to demand that we love one another? That is just too hard Jesus. His answer is always the same. “No man can show greater love than to lay down his life for his friends—and I did that." Jesus gave men a commandment, which he had himself first fulfilled.
There have of course been numerous examples of men and women down through the ages that have given their lives for others. Those who stepped in the line going to the gas chambers in order to save another, and countless other examples that emerge from centuries of persecution, up to the present day in Communist and Islamic states. We will never know until Jesus returns how many Christians have given up their lives for others. But Jesus was different, he is Gods Son, he was innocent of any sin; of any crime; of anything; He laid down his life not for a principle not for a cause, not because he was that kind of guy but because he loved each and every one of us. His was a sacrifice made once and there would never need to be another.
Next Jesus calls us to be his friends. He tells the disciples that he does not call them slaves any more; he calls them friends. Now that is a saying, which would be even greater to those who heard it for the first time than it is to us. The Greek word Doulos, means the slave, the servant of God was not a title of shame; it was a title of the highest honour. Moses was the doulos of God so was Joshua and David. It is a title which Paul counted it an honour to use (Titus 1: 1); and so did James, both starting their letters with; ‘I the doulos of God. These great men in the past had been proud to be called the douloi, the slaves of God. And Jesus says: "I have something greater for you yet, you are no longer doulos slaves; you are friends." Jesus offers an intimacy with God, which not even the greatest men knew.
The idea of being the friend of God has also a background. If you recall, Abraham was the friend of God. But this phrase is lit up by our knowledge of customs of the times. At courts there was a very select group of men called the friends of the king, or the friends of the Emperor. At all times they had access to the king: they had even the right to come to his bedchamber at the beginning of the day. He talked to them before he talked to his generals, his rulers, and his statesmen. The friends of the king were those who had the closest and the most intimate connection with him.
Jesus called us to be his friends and the friends of God. That is a tremendous offer. It means that no longer do we need to gaze longingly at God from afar off; we are not like slaves who have no right whatever to enter into the presence of the master; we are not like a crowd whose only glimpse of the king is in the passing on some state occasion. Jesus gave us this intimacy with God, so that he is no longer a distant stranger.
But Jesus said: “You are not my slaves; you are my partners. Just let that thought sink in - Jesus has given us the honour of making us partners. The staggering choice laid before us today is that we can accept or refuse this partnership with Jesus in the work of leading the world to God.
Finally Jesus chose us to be ambassadors. "I have chosen you," he said, " to send you out." He did not choose us to live a life retired from the world, but to represent him in the world. Jesus chose us, first to come to him, and then to go out to the world. And that must be the daily pattern and rhythm of our lives. In out, in out – sounds like a party song.. There is so much more in this passage but time has beaten us:
I could go on; for Jesus chose us to be advertisements.
He chose us to bear fruit it;
He chose us to be privileged members of the family of God.
If you remember nothing of this address this morning say to yourself I am chosen, I am chosen, God has chosen me, and let that sink in to your very soul and then you will know what joy is all about.