Sermon for May 9, 2021
There was a man who decided that he needed a pet. But this man didn’t want any normal pet like a dog or a cat. He went to the pet store and he decided to get a centipede. A strange choice I would say. He brought the centipede home in a small container. Not long after, the man decided to go out to dinner and asked the centipede if he would like to join him. As you might expect, the man got no answer. But the man didn’t give up. He asked again if the centipede would like to go to dinner with him. Still, he got no answer. Finally, the man yelled into the contained do you want to go to dinner. The centipede responded, “Patience man! I heard you the first time! I’m putting on my shoes!”.
Many people speak about how difficult it is for them to be patient. I even hear some people talk about times they have asked God for something and they say they must be patient for God’s time is not our time. We speak of patience as a virtue. But today, we have another way to think about patience for it is one of the ways we abide in God. We have encountered the word abide a lot lately. It is found often in the gospel of John and in the letter that we refer to as 1st John. In other parts of John’s gospel, Jesus speaks of abiding with his disciples. He told them about the many abiding places that God has saved for them and he said that my Father and I will come and abide with you.
Two weeks ago, Susan Smith Allen spoke about abiding in God’s love. That word abide may mean many different things to many different people. Just one definition of abide is to wait patiently. A similar definition would be to wait for. Alfred Lord Tennyson once said “I will abide the coming of the Lord. Yes, I will wait for Jesus to come again. Let’s think about what that abide might mean in our relationship with God.
As we seek to abide in the love of Jesus, we listen to the words he shared with his disciples. Jesus spoke of his love for the one he called Father. He said that they abide with each other in love. We certainly are not as good at our relationships as Jesus, but we can aspire to follow the example of Jesus and God the Father. Jesus told us that it all begins with love. It is with love that we find ourselves able to abide with Jesus.
Jesus spoke of his own commitment to obey the commandments of God. Following the commandments and loving were connected for Jesus. Jesus spoke as if abide meant that he and the Father were living together in love. Most of us think of following the commandments as some kind of difficult task, something we do grudgingly. It is as if we have to make some grim resolution and stick with it. But Jesus saw following the commandments as something that he did with joy. And Jesus wanted his disciples to follow the commandments so that his joy might be in them. This exact perspective is found in the letter of 1st John today, “his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world”. When we obey the commandments, we become strong, strong enough to do everything that is needed in this world. As it says in the Psalm, “Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.” We want to be joyous when we seek the Lord and the way to do that is to follow God’s commandments. The gospel of John isn’t specific about all of the commandments we are to follow. It speaks only of the love that we should have for one another. When Jesus used the word abide, he spoke of the gift that we receive from him. We are blessed when Jesus abides in us. I feel that kind of abiding as a sense of peace, a calmness, a place of rest and security.
There is a hymn that we sometimes sing which begins with the words, “Abide with me”. The hymn takes place when it is evening and we are ready to go to sleep. It is a prayer for God’s comfort.
“Abide with me: fast falls the even tide
the darkness deepens; Lord with me abide;
when other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless,
O abide with me.
This hymn was written by a priest named Henry Francis Lyte. It was a favorite of Kings, an inspiration to generals, a reminder for competitors at athletic events and words of strength for a woman who faced a firing squad. God comes and abides with us, is present with us in the times that others leave us and when we feel helpless. The Abiding presence of God gives us our peace. As I read this week, the word abide “characterizes a relationship of trust, knowledge, love and unity that exists between Jesus and God”. While on earth, Jesus was able to reach out to God, to abide in God the Father. “In that same way, we as disciples are able to abide in Jesus even though Jesus has returned to God.
On this Mother’s Day, we give thanks for all the women who have cared for us. For most of us, our mother gave her love in ways that are similar to the love we receive from God. It is a good way to think about love and a good way to think of abiding in that love. Our mother’s cared for us and abided in us.
It is the gift of love and abiding from mothers and, more importantly, from God that inspires us to action. God certainly gives us the gift of love in all things. Yet sometimes love is a word that is too broad, it has so many definitions that we are uncertain what it means. So, when we know that God’s love abides in us, it can help us feel God’s presence, feel that God is with us.
I have already mentioned that abiding in God may give us patience to wait for the things we ask for. It may give us an acceptance of the things that God has chosen for us and it may be one reason that we follow the commandments with joy. The word abide can also be used to describe a willingness to accept what Jesus has given us. We might say, “I abide in the decisions that have been made by Jesus for me”. Perhaps this is another place that we may find joy, to know that Jesus has done wonderful things for each of us. Another definition for abide is to remain in a stable place. We wish to be with Jesus always so we will abide with Jesus. We come together on Sunday and at other times to sit with Jesus, to be in the presence of God. We join with other Christians in this time of worship, praise. We need some time to just be with God and with fellow Christians.
When I was considering the possibility of a life as a priest, my daughter suggested I read a book called “Let your life Speak” by Parker J Palmer. Parker struggled with depression. He told the story about people that would come and visit him during his lowest points. It wasn’t helpful when someone would say it is a beautiful day outside come and enjoy or if they offered similar words of encouragement. What helped Palmer in those difficult times was the person who came and just sat with him. I would say it was the person who came and abided with him. We can do that for each other.
Andrew Murray was a Christian pastor who wrote a book called Abide in Christ. He suggested this, ““Oh, that you would come and begin simply to listen to His Word and to ask only the one question: Does He really mean that I should abide in Him? The answer His Word gives is so simple and so sure: By His almighty grace you now are in Him; that same almighty grace will indeed enable you to abide in Him.” The words from both the Epistle and the Gospel today speak of the grace of God and the love of God. And they tell us that Jesus abides in us and that we are asked to abide in Jesus. I think we will find that our worries will go away, we will feel God’s peace when we just come and abide in Jesus. Let us come then, sit in quiet and joy, and abide in the love of Jesus. Amen.
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