Sermons 2009
How can we love? Easter 6B, 17May 2009, John 15:9-17

Home | Proper 17B, 30 August 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | Proper 16B, 23 August 2009, John 6:56-69 | Pentecost 10 (Proper 14B) 9 August 2009, John 6:35, 41-51 | Pentecost 8B (Proper 12B), John 6:1-21, 26 July 2009 | Pentecost 7B (Proper 11B), 19 July 2009, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 | Pentecost 6B (Proper 10B), 12 July 2009, Mark 6:14-29 | Pentecost 5B (Proper 9B) 5 July 2009, Mark 6:1-13 | Pentecost 4B (Proper 8B), 28 June 2009 | Pentecost 3B (Proper 7B), 21 June 2009 | Pentecost 2B (Proper 6B), 14 June 2009 | About Pentecost, Pentecost B, 31 May 2009, | On the Trinity, Trinity B, 7 June 2009 | Jesus and Prayer, Easter 7B, 24 May 2009, John 17:6-19 | How can we love? Easter 6B, 17May 2009, John 15:9-17 | 2 Sermons: Vineyard and a Baptism, Easter 5B, 10 May 2009, John 15:1-8 | Who's in? Who's out? Easter 4B, 3 May 2009, John 10:11-18 | Sacramental Meals, Easter 3B, 16 April 2009, Luke 24:36b-48 | Resurrection, continued, Doubts, and a Baptism, Easter 2 B, 19 April 2009, John 20:19-31 | He is not here, Easter B, 12 April 2009, Mark 16:1-8 | The Seven Sayings from the Cross, Palm Sunday B 2009 | We wish to see Jesus, Lent 5B, 29 March 1009, John 12:22-33 | For God so loved the world, Lent 4B, 22 March 2009, John 3:14-21 | Out with the money changers! Lent 3B, 15 March 2009, John 2: 13-22 | On taking up the Cross, Lent 2B, 8 March 2009, Mark 8:31-38 | News or the real Good News?, Lent 1B, 1 March 2008, Mark 1: 9-15 | Listen to Him! Epiphany Last B Transfiguration, 22 February 2009, Mark 9:2-9 | What do you mean, demons? Epiphany 4B, 1 February 2009, Mark 1:21-28 | Immediately and discipleship, Epiphany 3B 2009, 25 January 2009, Mark 1:14-20 | Right in front of your eyes, Epiphany 2B, 18 January 2009, John 1:43-51 | In the beginning, water and the Spirit, Epiphany 1B, 11 January 2009, Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11 | In God we trust, Christmas 2B, 4 January 2009, Jeremiah 31:7-14; Matthew 2:1-12

Easter 6B 2009                                                     John 15:9-17

            Carson McCullars spent much of her short life writing about the difficulties of human loving.  In her short story, "A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud," a paper boy is accosted one early morning by an old man in a street corner cafe. The man, whom the boy decides is drunk, says to him, "I love you," and then proceeds to tell the boy his story in the midst of the other diners.  He shows the boy a picture of a woman to whom he was married and who left him.  He tells the boy a long story about the difficulties he has had in loving and then concludes that he started "at the wrong end of love."  Loving those that are most important to you is too difficult.  You need to begin with "a tree, a rock, a cloud," then those you don’t know or whatever comes into view.  Loving someone you really care about is, the old man says, "the last step in my science. I haven’t tried that again." (1)

            No two human beings are exactly alike. That makes life with all its varied relationships so interesting.  Persons are sometimes similar in general characteristics, and, even in contexts and experiences which they share.  But they are never fully alike. Not even identical twins. No person is ever replicated. Patterns may recur but each person is unique, a fresh creation.

            This rich mixture of persons in our world not only makes life interesting, but also makes it sometimes difficult. The variety of differences in persons keeps life new and fresh, but also difficult.  There are persons who differ on faith.  For some, the priority is the personal salvation of individuals. To others it is of social justice.  Whether to redeem the world or reform it represents a real difference that divides churches and people.   And similar divisions over the current wars, political parties, philosophies, and so on. (2)

            Human love, then, exists between selflessness and selfishness and often seems more like the latter than the former. The germ of self interest may be found in the most sacrificial forms of love, so that pure selflessness appears an impossible ideal—as the parents identify themselves with their children and heroes with the causes or people for whom they die.

            In Love, Power, and Justice theologian Paul Tillich considered the meaning of love in its relation to ultimate reality, that is, to God.  He noted that all forms of love, however different and even contradictory they seem to be, are connected by a desire for unity with the object of love.  While the desire for unity may be obscured and corrupted by acts of violent possession, it is still present and reveals the universal human need for a wholeness and completion that the ego, by itself, cannot obtain.  For Tillich this desire for unity is the thread that connects all forms of love to the ground and power of being, to God as its ultimate aim.

            Another theologian noted that Tillich was helpful, but in the end exposed more the tragedy than the triumph of human love.  And that the image of a divine love and relationality given to male and female exists in human history only as a sign of what was lost.  We humans are incomplete and cannot make ourselves whole.  "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless `til they rest in Thee" wrote Saint Augustine as early as the 5th Century AD.

 God is complete in God’s self alone and can thus love as Father, Son and Spirit without needing anything from either the divine or creaturely objects of his love. Thus the Son can say, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you".  in respect to time and space, to power and knowledge, there are no deficiencies or needs in the divine life which could in any degree, put the creator in the place of the creature.  God is neither static nor unfeeling, but none of God's changes and feelings come from any incompletion or need, for God is complete in God’s self.

            And so God's love is no more like human love than is God's power or knowledge .  Every finite human attribute cannot be "like" its infinite divine counterpart. And yet, the mystery of revelation, a gracious God condescending to be present with and for finite creatures, is this:  the barrier between God and human beings is breached  and what was unthinkable becomes known, and what was impossible in respect to us — and in respect to love—becomes possible. But that possibility becomes possible from one direction and cause only.

            Christian love corresponds to the incarnation. Just as God became human without erasing the humanity of Jesus, or diminishing his divinity, , the Bible is the Word of God without changing or diminishing its character as frail and fallible human words trying to capture the essence of the Divine Logos – Jesus Christ – and the infinite power and unyielding mystery of the Divine Revelation of God’s Triune self.  Just as the communion bread and wine are turned from common use to a holy use and mystery, so our thoughts and actions may be turned by the Holy Spirit to conform to God's will and purpose.  Such divine action does not cancel human freedom and responsibility, but empowers it.  Human love is dependent on divine love.   We never can or will take the initiative in love.  We can and will love only because God has first loved us, and still does.  (3)




1.  As summarized and quoted by John Patton in Pastoral Implications II, Lectionary Homiletics for John 15: 9-17,

2.  Melvin A. Kimble, Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, Pastoral Implications III, Lectionary Homiletics for John 15: 9-17,

3.  Alexander McKelway, Theological Themes I, Lectionary Homiletics for John 15: 9-17,