May 6, 2012 “ 5 Easter B
Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Relationships change people. The most self-centered, self-serving, people can suddenly come to think of another person as even more important than they are when a relationship is formed.
Falling in love causes us to put the other person ahead of our own needs. Having children brings out a remarkable generosity in us where we make sacrifices for the lives of those now dependent on us. Serving in combat brings out a dramatic change as strong-willed individuals will lay down their lives to help save a comrade. Playing on a team, though less dramatic, sees individuals cooperating with each other in an attempt to accomplish a goal more important than individual statistics. Being in a community alters our behavior as we become willing to make financial and other sacrifices for the good of the city or state or country. We could even say that a mark of spiritual and emotional maturity is this movement from being self-centered to other-centered. We come to see that we is a better thing than I.
In the beginning, God created the individual and put individuals in community with each other. Relationships with each other shape us. And our relationship with God shapes us. We speak of conversion experiences, before and after sorts of events, where we feel God’s presence and want very different things than we used to want. We come here to hear the Word and receive the sacraments because we have been changed by that relationship and we want to be further changed. Relationships change people.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Jesus speaks of this truth about relationships and the absolute truth that we must be in relationship with God and with Christ to be complete, to function in the manner in which we were created to function. Apart from me you can do nothing. Repeatedly Jesus speaks of abiding in God’s love, centering ourselves in that love, enduring in that love, coming to trust that relationship and God’s will more than we trust our own will. That we we experience with God is vital. The I we had before is transformed and made more than it was. There is a sacrifice to be made in that we have to give up the I that seems so important but something enters our life in such a powerful way that we come to want the we with God more than we wanted the I we had without him. And then some pretty remarkable changes take place in our lives. We become willing to do things we weren’t willing to do before. We think differently, we act differently, we find ourselves becoming more generous, making sacrifices for others with enjoyment and satisfaction. The self-centered child wants certain things for himself. The spiritually mature adult wants what is best for others. Abide with me, Jesus invites us, and watch what happens to you. It will be a remarkable change.
Abide with me, Jesus invites, and ask for anything you want and it will be done. But he’s not talking using God as a wishing well. It doesn’t take long in life to discover that asking for whatever we want just doesn’t work. Kids learn that they don’t always get what they want. At least they should learn that. If they don’t learn it as kids, they will learn it as adults. Life is full of disappointments and dashed hopes. So we know Jesus is not just saying that whatever we want in our lives will magically happen. What Jesus speaks of is this remarkable transformation that happens in our lives as we abide in a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s not that whatever we selfishly want is given to us. What Jesus speaks of is how our very desires change as we are in a relationship with God. We no longer just want selfish things. We come to want for ourselves what God himself wants for us. We learn that things of this world aren’t that important and we come to want them less. The things of God’s kingdom, that’s what’s important and that’s what we come to desire. We don’t just want stuff. We want peace, wisdom, hope, healing, wholeness.
And that is what is provided for us, salvation itself, as we abide with our heavenly Father. You don’t get everything you want in life. You get even more, even better. As we deepen ourselves in Christ, we want more than the things of this world. We want what God wants for us, we learn to ask for that, and God gives that to us generously and graciously.
Abide in me and watch your life change. Abide in me and you’ll want what God wants for you. Our relationship with Christ transforms us. Abide with Christ. He is the vine and we are the branches.