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Abiding in Love

May 8, 2021

The journey from Easter to the Ascension and Pentecost invites us to consider and to spend time with Jesus and his teachings. When you consider that Easter is an invitation to a deeper life and not simply a ritual to be remembered and celebrated each year, it can challenge and transform you. However, we must be willing to open our hearts and our lives to the possibilities and the challenges.

In last week’s reading from 1 John 4:7-21 the author talks about what selfless love looks like. In the opening verse, we read: Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (verse 7) In the gospel reading from John 15:1-8, Jesus reveals that he is the vine and that we are the branches. Our purpose as branches is to produce much fruit. What is that fruit? I believe the fruit is centered in love. God’s love for us, our love for God, and our call to love one another.

 This week the gospel reading from John 15:9-17 continues the theme of what this call to love looks like. 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. (verses 12-13) This love that Jesus is talking about is not self-absorbed. It is the sort of love which asks us to look beyond ourselves and considers our neighbors. Is this sort of love easy? In a word, no. For whatever reason, humankind’s first response it to take care of our own needs first. The desire for self-preservation is strong and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be when the focus is selfish and self-serving. 

During my last two assignments with the Air Force, I worked closely with the Air Force Special Operations forces. The motto of these “Air Commandos” was both simple and complex. “These things we do that others may live.” A great deal of their mission involved search and rescue along with other battlefield missions. The Para Rescue Commandos (PJ’s) were specifically trained to be inserted into a situation where a military member needed rescuing and medical care. Their first objective was to care for the wounded or injured military member. The second objective was for the rest of the air crew to safely evacuate the wounded to a place of safety where they could be medically treated.

When I was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, one of our units assigned to the base was a rescue squadron. One day, they were alerted to an unusual mission. A civilian had made their way to the edge of the Stratosphere tower (like the Seattle Space Needle) and was preparing to jump. At the last minute, the realization of what they were doing struck them and the individual changed their mind and didn’t want to jump. The problem was, how do they get away from the ledge. The rescue helicopter lifted off from the flightline and made its way to the Stratosphere. The winds were up and the conditions were not exactly favorable. The helicopter hovered as the PJ was lowered on a cable to the edge of the tower. The PJ was able to secure the individual and they returned to base after completing the successful rescue operation. The entire mission crew had a single focus. The focus was on saving the life of a fellow human being who was in danger. They didn’t ask why the person did it. Instead, they responded to the mission as they had been called to do. 

I had the opportunity to serve alongside of Air Force Special Operations Command rescue personnel during my deployment to Afghanistan/Uzbekistan and during my last two assignments in the Air Force. Were these Air Commandos superhuman? No. They were highly trained military personnel They weren’t superhuman but they were dedicated to something greater than themselves. These things we do that others may live. 

So, what does this have to do with abiding in love? In John 15:1-17, Jesus uses the phrase “abide in me” or “abide in my love” ten times. The Greek word for abide is “menó” which means to stay, abide, or remain. It doesn’t mean stay with me until things get rough and then run away. This means staying with someone through thick and thin. Jesus would live out the meaning of “abide with me” from the cross. After the resurrection, Jesus lived it out as he came to the disciples and loved them even though they had abandoned him on the night when he was betrayed. 

Denise and I drove to her hometown of Florence, Alabama on Friday to attend the celebration of life for the mother of two dear friends of hers whom she had known since high school. It was a good day which included spending a few hours with her dad. Instead of staying in a hotel as we had planned, we drove back to Carrollton that night. It was a long drive and we were tired. As we rolled in just after midnight, we were happy to be home. Our house… the place where we abide… the place where we find comfort and rest… our home that we love!

When we are invited to abide with Jesus, to abide in his love, we are invited to a place that is safe and secure. However, we are not called to remain in that cocoon. That place is where we find nourishment and replenish our spirit before we go back out into the world to share the love of God in Christ with all whom we meet. Abide in love… abide with Jesus… from there we can and we must go forth and reach beyond ourselves as we seek to follow the command to love God and love our neighbor. 

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One Comment
  1. pynkoski2 permalink

    Amen and amen.

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