To be chosen and called a friend by Jesus is a wondrous thing. Here is a sermon on John 15:9-17 that I wrote in the spring of 2009:
I Choose You!
A Sermon on John 15:9-17
Sixth Sunday of Easter
I wonder what is going to happen to Susan Boyle. I wonder who will turn out to be her true friends. About a month ago, Susan auditioned for the British reality TV series called “Britain’s Got Talent,” and within hours her appearance and her performance were being talked about all over the world. She was an instant celebrity.
This happened because when Susan walked out onto the stage, the judges and the audience were obviously already judging her and rejecting her because of her appearance and her manner. She is a middle-aged woman with a thick waist. Her hair was a mess, and she wore a beige lace dress that resembled what a mother-of-the bride might have worn in the 1960s. Her manner was, well, awkward—it provoked laughter and pity in the audience. Susan has never been married, and she even said that she had never been kissed, which may or may not be true. They also laughed when Susan said she wanted to be a professional singer. Did any of you all see this on TV or online? The judges and the audience had made up their minds: this one was a reject.
But then Susan opened her mouth, and out came a soaring, powerful voice. She poured her heart into a song called “I Dreamed A Dream,” a song filled with disappointed longing for a better life. It blew the judges and the audience away. They didn’t expect someone who looked like Susan to have a talent like that. Instantly, people went crazy about her, wanting to talk to her. Even Oprah. But I wonder. Will any true friends come to Susan out of this, people who will truly care for her as a friend, not just use her? Time will tell who the real friends are.
Jesus’ disciples would soon find out who their real friends were. Some would be put out of their synagogue congregations because they clung to Jesus. Some would even be put out of their families. Imagine it: “If you don’t stop this Jesus foolishness, then you are no longer a member of this family!” Rejection awaited many of Jesus’ disciples out in the larger world. Romans, for example, wondered what was wrong with those Christians. Why couldn’t they at least pretend to go along with giving homage to Caesar? “Christians make bad citizens, that’s what,” they declared.
Knowing what his disciples were going to face in the days, months and years ahead, Jesus said many things to them to prepare them. On the night before he was betrayed, he went over many important promises, like this one from John 14: I’m not going to leave you orphaned. I’m coming to you.
In today’s lesson, Jesus made some things abundantly clear to them: You are not slaves. You are not hired people. You don’t just work for me and try to please me and do what I want. I don’t want you for what I can get out of you. I don’t call you servants any longer. Servants aren’t in on what the master is doing. I call you friends. I have told you, let you in on everything my Father has told me. You are my friends. And the Greek word Jesus uses there means “loved ones.” You are my loved ones. I chose you. Friends prove themselves by laying their lives down for each other. I lay my life down for you. You are chosen and cherished. (more…)