Scripture Passage – John 15:5
Description – Communion Meditation for July 1, 2012
With my love of history I am always looking for interesting stories and two of the most recent stories I have encountered are the history of The first is Abraham Lincoln and his family’s burial “issues” for lack of a better term. It is one of the most bizarre stories I have ever heard.
Basically, Lincoln’s casket was buried, exhumed, reburied, nearly stolen, and then because the mausoleum originally built to house Lincoln and five other members of his family was falling apart, he had to be temporarily re-buried while it was rebuilt. Finally, in 1901 Abraham Lincoln’s remains were finally laid to rest in the tomb that is visited by nearly one-half million people a year.
I encountered the second story as I prepared for this morning. I decided to research the history of The Declaration of Independence after it was written. And I discovered something as I did.
It seems that, according to Pauline Meier author of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence that “It wasn’t taken care of very well in the early years. It was sort of rolled up, carried around with the Second Continental Congress. And then the State Department kept it, and if people came, they’d pull it out and show it to them. None of this, you know, enormous–What do they call it?–at the Library of Congress–argon caskets, you know, these heavy metal, glass cases that have gas in them without oxygen so that the documents don’t decompose. And the Library of Congress keeps them sort of in a refrigerator. It’s the most precious documents–none of that.
I mean, they just pulled it out and showed it to you, the real thing. And then they got tired of pulling it out, so they pasted it up on a wall in what was then the patent office, and there it remained for 30 years near a very bright window. It faded. And they spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what they could do with it. Modern preservation techniques are really a quite recent development.”
Here is this document, composed and dated for July 4, 1776, that lead to the creation of this county, has had a major impact on our national development and really the world as well, being rolled and unrolled like a common document. And yet it continues to impact us today nearly 236 years later.
There are three words in this document that are often quoted when we start talking about what our nation is about then and now: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Many are understandably concerned today that liberty is being taken away. Many are bothered by the lack of a respect for life these days as well. And happiness, for some, seems to be getting further and further away from their reach.
I like what Winston Churchill said back in 1947 in a speech to the House of Commons in England. “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Though our form of government is really a republic of representative government, I believe that we are living in a period of time when democracy and faith are at odds with one another. There are laws being passed and actions being taken that are against what many believe go against what the Bible is believed to say (and I say ‘believed to say,’ because there are differing interpretations of certain Bible passages held by Christians). But democracy still remains even when things are said and done we disagree with. And I am sticking with democracy!
But, there is a higher power to which I am ultimately accountable – God. And while Jesus said, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” my ultimate loyalty is to Christ.
And as we prepare for communion this morning I want us to consider three other words that Jesus mentioned in His final moments with the disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. I believe these three words are what constitute the believer’s pursuit of a fuller and deeper life of faith just as the Declaration of Independence has lifted up the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.
The first comes from our main text for this morning, John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Older translations uses the word “abide” in place of remain. But the idea is still the same.
Very important to our ongoing relationship with and faith in Christ, we must continue to remain in Him. To read scripture and to pray for understanding and help in obeying scripture is one way to abide in Him. To choose to keep believing and trusting in Him is another way to abide in Christ.
Jesus gave a clear and understandable image of the vine in a vineyard to underscore the need to abide. If a branch of a tree or a vine or if a flower gets clipped off from the flower bush, they all eventually die. To abide in Christ and keep abiding in Christ is a daily choice to stay alive in Christ.
And one of the ways we abide, we stay alive in Christ appears further down in John 15 and verse 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”
This is the second word I suggest we pursue in our walk and faith in and with Christ. Love is central to our faith. The God we worship and serve is Love. Jesus made clear that to love God and neighbor is the greatest commandment.
Marriage is about abiding in a relationship to one person, and one only person, and abiding in love. And this love is more than the romantic love that is so commonly focused on these days. This love that is part of our pursuit as a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ is a love that ultimately requires to not just pray but live through doing “not my will but your will be done.”
It requires a sacrifice of my way and my time and my agenda. Jesus makes this clear in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
And while this kind of love, this sacrificing “you first” love is important, Jesus in this segment of John’s gospel adds third way to this pursuit of a deeper and fuller faith.
It is implied in the word “command” that appears throughout verses 9 through 17. It is the word “obedience.”
This is one of the most difficult words to face in the Bible. Quite frankly, we do not like to obey… anybody!
Verse 14 says “You are my friends if you do what I command.” To do what someone commands is to do what they say, it is to obey them.
Jesus calls the disciples, and us to obey Him by doing what He commands us to do and in this passage that requires two things – abiding and loving.
So as we prepare for communion this morning I ask you, Do you want to have a fuller and richer faith in Christ? Are you willing today to abide, love, and obey the Lord no matter what that means?
I am grateful for the freedoms I have in this nation. They have enriched my life in ways large and small.
But I am even more grateful for the freedom I have in Christ. They have enriched my soul. They have saved my soul. They have liberated my soul from sin and death and hell!
I purpose again this morning before you and in God’s presence to abide in Christ, to love as Christ would have me love, and to obey Christ. This is my ultimate pursuit.