Easter 6A; John 14:15-21
As I said last week, the last three Sundays of the Easter season rely on the Farewell Discourse for our gospel readings. This may be because, symbolically speaking, we are being prepared for a life without Jesus in our midst. In four days, at least on the Church calendar, Jesus will ascend to the Father and the disciples will be left alone. In four days, liturgically speaking, the world will no longer see Jesus, but we will see him.
Today's passage is all about ensuring that the disciples will not be alone. He is sending another Advocate, the spirit of truth, to be with them for ever. He will not leave us orphaned. And he assures them that, through love, he will abide in them and reveal himself to them.
In January 1986 I moved from the Seattle area and less than two miles from my parents' house to Spokane on the other side of the state and about 290 miles away. Although I had been on my own for a few years, it was the first time I was really far away.
There were other similar events in my life, as I'm sure in yours as well. There was our move to Chicago that took us further away from our friends and family. There was my daughter's move to Missouri for college that took her away from us. As we live our lives, the eventual deaths of family members happens, leaving us separated for the rest of our lives – my dad being the most recent.
In these instances, and in others not named, or in your own similar instances, we may have been separated but we were not apart. We were separated by distance and death, but we remain connected in love. Despite our separation we abide with and in each other. This abiding love is what keeps us connected to family and friends despite any physical distance between us, even up to and including death.
I think we can seem some of this in humorous ways. When we say things to our kids like, “No, you can't have a snack now, you'll ruin your dinner,” or, “Stop turning up the heat, we don't own stock in the electric company,” or, “If you're friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” As soon as something like that comes out of our mouth, the next sentence is usually, “I've turned into my mother/father.” That's probably because they live in you and you in them. Those closest to us impact us in ways we may not even know until words or actions make that apparent. Sometimes we hear it from others – “The apple doesn't fall far from the tree,” or other sayings.
These are just some humorous examples to show how we abide in certain people and they in us. But this is also at the heart of today's gospel – this mutual abiding of you in Christ and Christ in you.
What would it look like if we we to abide in Christ in such a way that the apple didn't fall far from the tree? What would that look like for us and for the world?
Instead of hoarding our possessions, we would give away what we don't need. Instead of destroying the environment, we would actively care for it. Instead of sacrificing our children on the altar of gun rights, we would tear down that altar in favor of human rights. Instead of shaming others for not being like us, we would support others for being created in God's image.
We are called to bear witness to Christ wherever we are. Among other things, this means to love ourselves and each other as he loved us. It means that we work to live in such a way that Christ is made visible to those around us.
Jesus' ultimate commandment was to love others as he loved us. That takes work, effort, and intentionality; in the same way that we should be working on our discipleship and how we work at our relationships.
If we do these things, if we love God and neighbor, if we care about people more than things, if we work for our common good more often than we work for selfish gains, then just maybe someone might say about us, “The apple doesn't fall far from the tree,” because we sound like Jesus. And it is through that mutual abiding, he in us and we in him, that we will continually bear witness to Christ in the world.