10th May 2015
John 15. 9-7 & John 6. 1-6
The Rev’d Soon-Han Choi
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know that the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”
When Skype was first introduced, we were amazed at what the technology could do, and, at the same time we were so pleased to be able to, overcome the distances between us, and not only speak to each other, but actually see the faces of our friends, so far away.
When I was working with Bishop Michael Marshall, he used to go to America frequently. I taught him how to use Skype so that we might connect with each other and continue to share what was happening in our ministries, albeit, thousands of miles apart.
Today’s Gospel was the one of the last instructions Jesus gave, before his crucifixion. Out of His love, he was teaching His disciples how to use that original ‘Skype’ – how to be connected with Him and to continue the intimate relationship with Him, beyond physical separation. The Skype Jesus gave His disciples and has given us, His disciples and learners today, was and is and will be “Love each other” – that’s the ‘password’ to God’s ‘skype!’
Jesus has given us this commandment, which sums up all the other commandments.
First of all, just as Skype offers to us today the ability to connect more closely with our loved ones who are not physically with us, so all the commandments of God provide us with the means of connecting to and deepening the love we share with God our Father . The commandments were made for us and we weren’t made for the commandments. That would mean we become servants to the commandments, rather than the commandments helping us to remain in the love of Jesus. The commandments are for our benefit and blessing. If we try to keep the commandments with this new perspective, we begin to know why Jesus asks us to love each other.
While I was exploring the ordained ministry, I was working at Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall. The working conditions were excellent, wonderfully located and within walking distance of where I lived: also my colleagues were so friendly, except for one, who really was a football hooligan. He used that “F” word throughout his day-to-day speech and made all sorts of unpleasant and aggressive remarks to me, even nationalistic remarks, saying “Why are you here from Korea – you should go home”. Frankly I thought “It would be truly heavenly if he were not there!”
I was surprised and disappointed with myself that, as a Christian, exploring ordination, I was entertaining such thoughts in my heart. I had to face the challenging commandment of Jesus: “Love your neighbour; Love your enemy and Love each other.”
At first, I tried hard to keep the commandment, to prove to myself, ‘’I’m a good Christian,’’ little realising where that attitude would lead me. Nevertheless, I decided I had to do something practical. I found an empty storage room and decided to pray 15 minutes during my break time, daily – a prayer that the football hooligan would change. I prayed for around three months nearly every day for him. He did not change: he was the same. My prayer didn’t work.
I thought “I’m spending this precious break-time not for myself, but for that colleague, and congratulating myself on my Christian virtue!”
Of course I was completely oblivious to what Jesus is doing all the time, for us all – eternally praying for us – (not a mere 3 months)!! I was a bit upset that God didn’t answer my prayer. Nevertheless, I kept on praying for another three months. One day I saw that God answered my prayer. He was changed, but not according to what I expected. My football hooligan colleague was still speaking the same language and behaving in just the same way. BUT, God had changed MY attitude to him. The Football hooligan became my friend, because I saw him in a new light – he was rather a damaged man, overly excited by football, but a loving husband, who actually cared for his family. The change God had brought about was in me. That foul language he used and the rough behaviour didn’t hurt me at all anymore, and I was able to listen and talk with him as a friend. The working place did become heavenly.
Isaiah describes the Kingdom of God in this way. “In that day, the wolf and the lamb will live together; the calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion. A little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes, without harm. Nothing will hurt.”
Secondly, the commandment of Jesus shows His commitment and faithfulness to us first. So, when Jesus says “Love one another as I have loved you,’’ we need to realise that his love for us is unconditional: he will never divorce us, and therefore teaches us not to divorce or write off anyone, however unlovable they may be. That is his character implied in his commandment to us, to be like him.
So we keep His commandments on the basis of this simple truth that Jesus has loved us first, so his love ought to be shared through our participation in loving one another, as He loves us. When this love is shared with others, the presence of Jesus is tangible among us and within us: it’s as though ‘God’s Skype’ is active and working among us, and is the way Jesus teaches us, as in today’s Gospel, “to remain in his Love.”
He is showing how the kingdom of God is established among us and within us when we keep the commandment, “to love one another as He loves us.” Otherwise we turn the commandment to love into Christian ideal, beyond our reach, slavishly striving to keep the commandment, proving to ourselves that we are better Christians than others. No, that commandment is for you and me, for OUR benefit and blessing. It’s the best way to have a wonderful, intimate communion with Jesus, in God’s heavenly Skype of the Holy Spirit.