John 15:9-17
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my
love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just
as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I
have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and
that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you
love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than
this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if
you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer,
because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I
have called you friends, because I have made known to you
everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose
me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit
that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him
in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love
one another.

Relationships take work.

Whether romantic or platonic,
they require effort.
Whether societal or community-based,
they demand genuine on-going connections which feed one another.
All relationships take work.

Some of us are more intuitive
of this requirement than others.
Counseling couples either in the role of
clinical social worker or parish priest
over the past quarter of a century plus, I’ve been stupefied at the

of some people, mostly men,
oblivious to their partner’s needs
and the overall needs of an on-going, healthy relationship.

Of course, preoccupation with work
is often a killer of relationships.
This I acknowledge
as an ever-present challenge for me
and others in care-giving vocations.
All healthy relationships require
attention and nurture.
Jesus shares his guidance and instruction
for a healthy relationship
within Jesus’ community,
the Body of Christ.
This instruction is for those
who already belong to Jesus,
those who have been grafted
into Jesus the Vine
and acknowledge their responsibility
as branches being nourished to produce fruit that entices and feeds
the needs of God’s people.
Jesus’ instruction is for those already
on the inside of God’s love;
for those who have already accepted Jesus and invited God’s love into their
This guidance is intended to help us
stay connected with other branches

of the Vine bearing fruit for God.

As we display this behavior
of loving one another as Jesus loves us,
we nurture,
not only our relationship with God,
but also we foster deep connections
with Jesus’ other followers and friends.
By loving one another as Jesus loves us,
we demonstrate one another’s value, potential and vocation of helping God’s
vision of justice, compassion and peace
come alive for all humanity.
This takes work.
We do not all agree on all things.
We bring our own experiences
and our own interpretations
of what we’ve been taught.
We offer our own reflections and insights.
Therefore, to love one another
as Jesus Christ loves us,
we must work at
putting aside differences
and experience our common connections with Jesus and one another.

This takes continual effort.
I was raised in a Christian tradition
where I learned that difference

was a bad thing.
It may not have been the intention
of that tradition,
but that was my experience.
I’ve witnessed pastors
dividing rather than uniting God’s people.
I’ve experienced Christians
fanning the flames of all types of prejudice.
While there are certain basic understandings
revered by all Christian denominations
and shared among some,
I believe, these revered understandings
or doctrines should never draw a line
in the sand, preventing members of
the one Body of Christ
from acknowledging one another
as sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus.
Regrettably, some churches
don’t share my conviction.
In our scripture passage for this morning
from John’s Good News,
I believe Jesus is attempting
to prevent disunity.
He does this by requiring those
who choose to participate
in a healthy relationship
within the Body of Christ
to love one another as Jesus loves us.

Jesus’ love for us is self-giving.
This love puts others above
our opinions and theological perspectives,
over all our druthers.
Jesus shares this guidance
so that we may live
with joy in our hearts,
delighting in our new, empowering life
in God as God so delights in us.
Living a healthy relationship
within the Body of Christ
with Jesus and his family
of followers and friends
demands our intentional effort
to love and keep loving.
By our acceptance of Jesus into our lives
we are grafted into Jesus the Vine
and given the nutrients necessary
to love and keep loving.
We do not live as independent contractors.
We are branches of the Vine.

Trust that you and I,
through our connection
with God and our Savior Jesus Christ,
have the ability, grace and privilege
of producing fruit
that feeds the needs of God’s people,
and gives us plenty of love to share.

So love and keep loving,
and loving and loving and loving.