Short meditation on Abiding in the love of Christ
Let us open in prayer
Father, I pray that you will anoint my words this morning that they may be words for each of us from you. I ask what I say may be relevant in our Christian lives. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Story: A company chairman was given a ticket to the performance of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. As he could not go he gave the ticket to the Head of Personnel – who had formerly worked for a time and motions company McKinsey’s.
The Head of Personnel went to the concert and the next morning the Chairman asked him how he had enjoyed it. Instead of the usual pleasantries, the Chairman was handed a memorandum which read as follows:
Analysis of Schubert’s Unfinished
1.For considerable periods the oboe players had nothing to do. The number should be reduced and their work spread over the whole orchestra thus eliminating peaks of inactivity.
2. All 12 violins were playing identical notes. It seems unnecessary duplication and the staff of this section should be drastically cut. If a large volume of sound is really required, this could be obtained through an electric amplifier.
3. Much effort was absorbed by playing demi-semiquavers. This seems an excessive refinement and it is recommended that all the notes should be rounded up to the nearest semiquaver. If this were done it would be possible to use trainees and low grade operators.
4. No useful purpose is served by repeating with horns, the passage that has already been handled by strings. If all such passages were eliminated, the concert could be reduced from 2 hours to 20 minutes.
If Schubert had attended to all these matters, he would have been able to finish the symphony before he died!
We live in a society that is constantly moving in the fast lane. We are always too busy. We strive for time efficiency. Time is of the essence. In contrast, this evening’s lesson is all about time inefficiency.
This evening I would like to focus on four words of Jesus in John 15. And these words are “Abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).
John 15 is a chapter about RELATIONSHIPS.
1. Our RELATIONSHIP to Christ (Jn 15:1-17)
2. Our RELATIONSHIP to other believers Jn 15: 12-18
3. Our RELATIONSHIP to the world (Jn 15:19-27)
And the key to success in each of these relationships reside in the words: Abide in my love.
“Abiding” runs countercurrent to all that we treasure. We live in a society that says that if we have time to “abide” we aren’t busy enough. Abiding has a certain tranquillity about it.
Jesus was busy - much of the time. But he did take time off to draw aside – to spend time with his heavenly Father and to pray in the midst of a heavy schedule.
We read in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, after a particularly gruelling time - healing many people in a particular town:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mk. 1:35)
Story: A couple of weeks ago, I went off to Oxford - bird watching at Pinkhill Reserve at Farmoor Reservoir.
Now I hasten to add, I hadn’t myself planned to go bird watching.
Maddy and I decided to go down the 25th Wedding Anniversary of good friends of ours from Oxford, Sally and Francis Prittie.
What I didn’t realise was that Francis was an avid bird watcher. And for part of their silver wedding celebrations, he had organised a group of us to go bird watching.
I spent the week trying to find any excuse to get out of bird watching. But I couldn’t find a good excuse - so off bird watching - I rather reluctantly went.
However, once we got to the hide on Pinkhill Reserve, I found it fascinating watching the common terns, the teal (small ducks), Canada geese with goslings, coots and cormorants.
And after an hour when Francis said,” let’s go” I felt like saying: What do you mean - I want to stay!!
I wanted to ABIDE in the hide!
And as I thought about it, I realised that my bird watching experience was a parable about abiding in Christ.
In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples to abide in Him three times:
4Abide in me (Jn 15:4)
7If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (Jn 15:7)
Abide in my love. (Jn 15:9)
And I think they are all interlinked. We can only abide in Christ when we abide in his love. And how do we abide in His love: Jesus said in verse 10:
“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love”
Jesus didn’t give his disciples many commands. But he did give them two in this Chapter.
The first was to abide in Christ – which is tantamount to saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul.” Why, - because you can’t abide in Christ unless you do
And the second is in John 15:17 where Jesus said: This is my command: "Love each another"
Although these are only two commands they sum up all the laws given in the Old Testament. Because these two commands go to the motivation in keeping them.
Take for example a look at the ten commandments for example:
Commandment No. 5 Honour your Father and Mother (Ex 20:12).
Seen from Jesus’ perspective, if you love your parents, you will honour them
Commandment No. 10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or indeed his servants or property (Ex 20:17)
If you love your neighbour you won’t covet his property or his wife! Nor may I suggest will you murder him (Commandment No. 6) or steal from him (Commandment No. 7) !
As Christians, we are to keep God’s commands not out of fear of eternal damnation - but because we love God and one another.
Jesus was our example. He said
"Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command." (Jn 15:13-14).
And of course he did just that on Good Friday - when he died for us on the Cross. He put our good before his own.
Contrast that with the philosophy of the famous writer and atheist Gore Vidal, who once described Christianity as the greatest disaster ever to strike the West.
Vidal said: “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” He went on to say "Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies".
I know which philosophy, I’d rather follow.