Summary: A sermon for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B

May 9, 2021

Hope Lutheran Church

Rev. Mary Erickson

John 15:9-17

The Gift of Joy

Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.

“So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” So says Psalm 90.

How many days are we given in a life? Psalm 90 muses: “The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong.”

How precious are those days we’ve been allotted! They become more valuable as the number we have remaining ebbs. That process becomes accelerated for people with a terminal disease. They become acutely aware of the number of their remaining days!

And perhaps because of that, they come to know and appreciate life and all its splendor much more than we who float down the lazy river of life at a leisurely pace, as if the number of our days will never cease. But when we’re faced by our finite nature, we gain something, something that magnifies our heart of wisdom.

The Broadway musical Rent opened in 1996. The musical is a reinterpretation of Puccini’s opera "La Boheme." It recasts the story in Manhattan with a group of struggling young artists. Several of the main characters have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. At that time, in 1996, an AIDS diagnosis was still pretty much a death sentence.

The characters in the story are faced with the knowledge that their lives will be clipped short. That leads them to consider, how do we measure life? That question unfolds in the song “Seasons of Love.” The song counts the number of minutes in a year: 525,600. The song literally teaches us to number our days.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

How do you measure,

Measure a year?

In daylights?

In sunsets?

In midnights?

In cups of coffee?

In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

How do you measure a year in a life?

They answer the probing question with a question: “How about love?” How about we measure our days in love?

We hear a passage today from John 15. It’s part of Jesus’ farewell discourse on the night in which he was betrayed. In less than 24 hours (1440 minutes), Jesus’ life will end. And he knows it. He knows that time with his beloved friends is desperately short! How will he utilize these precious moments?

Jesus wants to leave them with his deepest desires for them. In our reading today, he leaves his disciples with this final appeal. Love one another. It’s all about love!

Not possessions,

not wealth,

not power,

not glory,

not fame – no, it’s about love!

It’s about love:

love of the community around you,

love of creatures, love of the earth,

love of family and dear ones,

love towards the stranger, and

love of God, our source, love’s source.

He leaves them with a final command, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is what it all comes down to for Jesus, what it’s all about. It’s about love. That’s what his entire ministry was about and what was leading him to his most exquisite death.

And that love, that love streaming from its godly source, it bears a most wonderful fruit. Love’s delicious fruit is Joy.

Jesus says, “You know, I’m telling you these things for a reason. I want you to have joy – my joy. I want you to experience the fullness of joy. I want your joy to be complete.”

For Jesus, there’s a direct connection between love and joy. When we love, joy emerges. Joy is the beautiful byproduct of love.

The emotion of happiness can be confused with joy. But there’s a tremendous quantum leap difference between the two.

Happiness is dependent on external factors. I feel happy over a good meal. I’m happy when the Milwaukee Brewers win. But I’m unhappy when they lose. Happiness is dependent on external circumstances. But joy is internally generated. Joy comes from within, it’s an outpouring from love and our faith in divine love.

Happiness is temporary and fickle. It comes and goes in the moment. But joy possesses a lasting quality, a permanence. It can span over time and circumstance. It’s bigger than the events surrounding us. We can be joyful even through difficult times.

This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day. Parents understand the nature of joy. When their child is born, they’re possessed by a love for this new soul. Love for their child becomes a major driver for them. Life with their child will take them down many pathways: ecstasy, worry, hilarity, sorrow, frustration, relief. As a parent, they’ll experience the full spectrum of human emotion. But even through challenging times, joy will not abandon them. Joy remains, even when happiness flees. That’s because joy is tied to something more constant, something lasting. Joy derives from their love. And it comes ultimately from the source of all love, from the divine impulse of love generating all things.

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