In the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Christ encourages us to abide in him. This is perhaps the most difficult thing for us humans to do; abide in the love of God known to us in Jesus Christ. And it at times seems the most difficult for the leaders and those whose identity is bound up in being Christian. In seeking to defend Christ, the institution and doctrines of Christianity or the Church, we tend to fail to abide in love.
That Christians and the church have failed in this is a truism of our culture and the reason Christianity Is rejected by many. And they are right to do so, for a Christian who does not love is without the life she professes to hold and proclaim. Such a Christian even if a leader in the church is a dead branch, without the ability to produce the fruit of faith which is love.
Here is the paradox: To love and abide in the love of God is the most difficult thing we can attempt to do and yet it is the least burdensome thing we could do.
It is difficult because we must give ourselves over to something which is greater than ourselves and which moves us beyond our tendency to protect ourselves and our identities at all cost. That is to protect ourselves from death and chaos. It is not burdensome because in giving ourselves over to this love, and in allowing it to flow through us like sap from the vine to the branches producing grapes, love becomes, over time, effortless. Or rather love when we abide in Christ, when we truly give ourselves over to Christ, becomes as natural as grapes appearing on the branches of a grape vine.
The image of the vine and branches, from the previous weeks, Gospel, conveys that what is asked of us is provided for us in being a part of Christ the vine. Abiding in Christ is to rest in the reality that the resources to love and walk in God’s love is provided by our relationship to God in Jesus Christ.
Jesus in the Gospel of John, uses other metaphors as well to convey this reality of being in Christ. In Jesus’ conversation with St Photini at the well, we who are in Christ become streams of living water as the love of God and the Spirit not only fills and empowers us but flows through and out from us to others and into the world.
Abiding in Christ and letting God’s love flow through us is a most difficult thing to do, and thus whay Christ enjoins us to so abide. Yet it is also the least burdensome we can do. This is the image of vine and branches, what we are asked to do is also done for us. We are called to let go of one view of the world in which we love isn’t the final word, to veiw the world from the passion and resurection of Christ, of God’s love for us.