Abide…and Be Changed
May 22, 2014
“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.”
–John 15:9-11 (NRSV)
Every time I hear this portion of John’s gospel where Jesus tells his disciples to abide in his love, I can’t help but think of a person I once knew. When she was presented with something she didn’t like, she would often say, “You know, I just can’t abide by this!”
Her comment is a reminder of how much that one word – abide – captures so much about what it means to follow Jesus. On one day, to abide in Jesus’ love means I can find rest and shelter from the storms of life; on another, it is an assurance to remain steady in God who is beyond time itself. But then there are those other times – when to abide in Jesus’ love doesn’t mean to find rest, or shelter, or steadiness – but rather, to mean that I have simply to tolerate what God is doing around me. I’m pretty good at abiding in Jesus’ love when it involves rest. But when it involves changes all around me – I’m not quite as good.
It’s no mistake that Jesus talks about abiding in his love immediately after saying that he is the vine, and we are the branches. The vine grows and bears more fruit as its branches are pruned. Sometimes, the branches are left to sit and rest – sometimes, they’re pruned and changed. But always, they are growing.
And we’re still growing. Even when we don’t like it. Especially when we don’t like it. In Eastertide, we celebrate that because Jesus passed over from death to life, everything about the landscape of our own lives is changed. We celebrate even that when we rest and remain in the Resurrected Christ, we are being changed. And we believe that even when we can’t imagine seeing ourselves transformed, Jesus is carrying us there nonetheless – pruning us to be yet more fruitful.
Consider times of both rest and change in your own life. Where have you seen God acting in your moments of rest and steadiness? What has God done in the midst of change – even the changes you didn’t like? What have you learned about what it means to follow after Jesus in each of these moments?