(If you're coming to Trinity, Milton, don't read this.)
Easter 5, 2021
Today’s lessons are rich and wondrous. Acts tells us of Phillip’s journey to a ‘wilderness road’ to baptize an Ethiopian eunuch who was in charge of the treasury of the queen.
Phillip interprets Isaiah, baptizes the man and is mystically transported to Azotus, where he preached the gospel all the way to Caesaea.
Psalm 22 has the beautiful and hopeful verse:
“The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
And those who seek the Lord shall praise him:
‘May your heart live forever.’”
Then the Epistle of John teaches us about love. Love.
And in John’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to ABIDE with him.
Today, I want to talk about LOVE and ABIDING.
You probably know that there are three Greek words that are all translated into English as ‘love’.
(I may have even mentioned that in my first sermon with you. People often ask me about a sermon from several weeks before and I usually don’t know what they’re talking about! Sermons are ‘in the moment’ and I don’t often remember what I said.)
The three Greek words that are all translated in English as ‘love’ are “Eros”, “Phileos’ and ‘Agape”.
The words have very different meaning.
“Eros” we can figure out—‘erotic love’…the love between two lovers.
“Phileos” is ‘brotherly or sisterly love’—as in the city Philadelphia.
But “Agape” is the love that gives itself away—love that is total and complete, love that knows no limits or bounds.
Near the end of the Gospel of John, you might recall, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” And three times Peter answers, “Lord you know I love you”.
Seems odd in English, that exchange, but in Greek it is different story. The first two times, Jesus askes, “Peter, do you ‘agape’ me” and Peter replies, “Lord, you know I ‘phileos’ you.”
The third time Jesus asks he says “do you ‘phileos’ me?” and Peter responds, “Lord you know I ‘phileos’ you.”
Peter didn’t feel worthy to give ‘agape’ love.
But ‘love’ in today’s epistle of John is always “agape”!
We are to have ‘agape’ love for each other, for those around us, for everyone on the planet!
We are to love without bounds, without limits, without any restrictions.
And we are to BE ‘agape’ in the world because ‘agape’ is from God and ‘whoever does not ‘agape’ does not know God.’
A heavy responsibility for us—to give ourselves away to ‘agape’ so we might know God.
There’s so much hate in our country and our world right now that we are needed by God, to give ourselves away to love and love and love.
And we must support and…hold each other in our hearts so we might ‘love’ as God calls us to ‘love’.
But what I really want to talk about today is ‘to abide’.
“Abide” has been a part of the English language since the 11th century. It sounds a little dated, but it is a word I love.
Webster’s dictionary has a lot of meanings to “abide”.
One is ‘to obey’, as in ‘abide by the law’ or ‘abide by the court’s decision.
But that’s not what Jesus meant.
He meant “to wait or await”, “to continue in a place—to ‘sojourn’ there”, to “remain with and stay around”—or as teens would say, to ‘hang out with’.
I grew up in Southern West Virginia and when I would walk around the neighborhood in Spring and Summer and Early Autumn, people would be sitting on their front porches and often they would say, “Jim, come up and ‘bide a spell.”
Nothing was expected in ‘biding a spell.
No questions were asked. No conversation was required. You were just invited to sit in a rocking chair and ‘abide’ for a while.
That’s lovely. And that’s Jesus’ invitation to us—to come up on the porch and take a rocking chair and ‘abide’ with him, so he can ‘abide’ with us.
Jesus invites us to be ‘a part of the vine’.
I am someone who does not think ‘individuality’ is more important than ‘commonality’.
The American concept of ‘individuality’ is the root of many of the problems in our country.
‘Individuality’ is at the root of racial inequality, childhood poverty, the divide between right and left, the lack of attention to the ‘common good’.
We need community, we need to be ‘part of the vine’, part of the whole.
And we need to ‘abide’ in the vine, ‘abide’ with all people, ‘abide’ with God, ‘abide’ with each other.
I want to invite you for a few moments, just to ‘bide with each other. No expectations, no requirements. Just ‘be’ with each other in silence. Join me.
Thanks for ‘abiding’ with me.
Amen and Amen.