- Camellia Flanagan
The mystical spirituality of love
Easter 6 Acts 10:44-48 Psalm 98 1 John 5:1-12, John 15:9-17
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
In the third century the Gospel of John was spoken of by Clement of Alexandria as the spiritual Gospel.(1) Last week Fr Greg spoke of the differences between the Gospel of John and what are known as the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. All have their wealth of spiritual meaning but John’s gospel is full of symbol and metaphor, with details of personal experience with long meditative and descriptive passages.
Through John’s writing we are invited into a mystical awareness of the divine. He shows us God in a multifaceted way, and probably, as is widely thought, he was writing from a community in Ephesus, a Roman-Hellenistic city with a Jewish community, with specific issues and needs.
Keeping the commandments of God, meant for John, keep the love command “love one another as I have loved you” There is also an implication of worship in the new relationship with Christ, and as believers we are also friends, drawn into an intimacy and knowledge of the person of Christ. Through this relationship we are free to give love and adoration to the Father through Christ in a way that produces life, growth and fruit. In return the Father and the Son abide in us through the Spirit (2)—continuing the theme from last week of abiding in the vine. More than God’s love for the world, is the Fathers love for the Son, and the Son’s love for the Father. At the centre of all that is real, is this love out of which the world is created and by which it is redeemed. It is this love which invites us –entices us - into the divine space, so that within the being of God, and within the love between the Father and Son we are invited, and gathered into Christ’s devotion to the Father.
We participate in the Father’s love, as sons and daughters with Christ. This mystical spirituality of love is enabled by the Holy Spirit who for want of a better way to express, it dances between the divine being we call God, Father and Son and us and the world, flinging the stardust of love on all of us.
The image of abiding is closely tied to love and friendship. The Discipleship of abiding is really about friendship which begins with Jesus himself and his love for us, - his disciples - which was shown especially in his death. We are no longer slaves, but friends and servants to others because we have been shown everything that Jesus has received from the Father. He has no secrets kept from us and has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us. As part of this loving friendship we are called into friendship with one another. In chapter 13 John shows us Jesus parting gift to us. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” What is new about this commandment is not the love, because that was already part of the life of Israel and the covenant from thousands of years, (Leviticus 19:18) but what is new is the clause “as I have loved you” Jesus lived it, and gave the same love to his disciples, and to us. We are held in this love by his love which is the love of the Father. All of us are embraced by the Father’s love for Jesus the Son, and belong in a mutual relationship of love with God and with one another.
This love and friendship however does not let us off the hook, as far as obedience is concerned. As friends we are ones who do what Christ commands us to do. And our obeying comes from the deep bond between Jesus and his disciples. We do what we are asked to do because we love the one who asks. We are part of the vine and because we abide in love we realise that obedience gives us the command to love, to be a disciple, to abide, and be drawn into a fellowship of love, and a communion of affection and commitment. To keep Jesus word and his commandment is a way of speaking of obedience, but it means more than that. To keep, suggests guarding and treasuring something of value. If we love, we treasure, so can we cherish Jesus himself, who keeps the Father’s word and who asks us to do likewise. Our obedience is given because we are notkept in the dark, and don’t know what the leader is doing. We are taught by the Spirit and our obedience comes from an informed and intelligent love, rather than from servitude and fear. We have moved from the status of servants to friends. There is a keeping and treasuring involved in our discipleship, born out of love, and a free obedience based on our belief that Jesus’ commands are of value. We are also of value in our obedience and abiding and are considered not only as friends, but also as members of the household, as Children of God.
In this finely balanced relationship which means some work on our part, the divine teacher is still the one who chooses us and appoints his disciples to go and bear fruit. Not just ordinary fruit, but fruit that will last.
In the first reading from Acts we hear of a new chapter of Christian history when a Jewish Christian leader and a Gentile Christian convert, found that they needed each other to discover something significant about God at work in the other person. The Gentile needed Peter and his gospel to know the way to salvation, and Peter needed the Gentile Convert and his experience of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to know that all were included in God’s plan.
In view of the exciting plans that were discussed at last week’s Dean’s forum, if we work together as a family of God, and abide in his love with one another, in the power of the Holy Spirit, it will soon be that the Cathedral Parish will be a different community of faith and a powerful witness of God’s love in this place. This will mean the intelligent and prudent reorganisation and use of our collective gifts and resources.
Can we be sure of our mission?
Through The manifestation of Christ’s love in our lives, can we lead others into the mystical awareness of the divine? Can we ensure that the hearts of others may find in our community a safe place for their own heart, where they feel loved, valued, accepted and included? People in our world and our community are searching for something to fill the void in their spiritual being.
We do not live in an ideal world, but the singing of our own spirit in love will allow others a glimpse of the divine in us and they may wish to find more.
Are we ready? Jesus never promised that obeying him would be easy, but the hard work and self-discipline of service to Christ is no burden to those who love him and if the load starts to feel heavy we can always trust Christ to help us bear it.
Jesus made the first choice, to love and to die for us, and to invite us to live with him forever. Can we make the next choice to accept his offer knowing that without his choice, we would have no choice to make?
Let us sing a new song in anticipation that our perfectly loving and perfectly just God is always faithful, loving and victorious. Amen.
1 Dorothy A Lee, Hallowed in Truth and Love:Spirituality in the Johannine Literature
Mosaic Press Australia, 2011 p 12
2 Lee p 69,70