May 2, 2021
From 1 John 4:7-21“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Once again: At the core of our Christian faith is love. God is love. Our virtue is love. And it is through love that we “abide in God.”
You might be thinking, wait a moment, I feel like a heard this before, like last week. And yes, you did. Yes, we did in the scriptures we heard. And beloved, the truth of the matter is this, often the important things bear repeating, remembering, and retelling. The way, the truth, and the life. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow: God is love. As Christians our virtue is love. And it is through love that we “abide in God.”
Last we week took a deep dive into Christian ethics, how we as the writer of 1 John says love “in truth and action.” We spoke about how as Christians, as created in the image and likeness of a God who is love and as followers of Jesus’ way of love, our highest guiding virtue is love. And all over virtues, even that of liberty, is always in service of love. Last week the metaphor was that of the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. This week, the message is the same, and the metaphor is that of the true vine.
From John 15: “Jesus said to his disciples, ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”
Our God is a God who prunes.
That which is has dead within us. The parts of ourselves where love has withered— where we have not been abiding with God— you know, the parts where our hearts are hardened and frozen those are the branches that resemble the Crigler family hibiscus that did not survive the icepocalyse of 2021. The are brittle and brown with decay inside no longer drawing up the water the life, no longer abiding in that which gives live. Those parts— those parts of ourselves, and let own even if they are big parts of ourselves, that do not abide in a God who is love are as our gospel reminds us: “gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Again, as our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” And what is not about love will be thrown away and burned. And to be clear, as the writer of 1 John is — well somewhat clear— this perfections, this judgement, this purification, is not something to fear for “perfect love casts out fear” and “fear has to do with punishment.” The pruning away of that which is not of love is not punishment, but liberation.
Like the disciples who move on from those who do not embrace a God of love, we shake off the dust of our feet whenever love has been rejected not in judgement of another or a part fo ourselves, but as an act of liberation. In Christ, we will not be shackled but the weight of sin and death. Energy is not neutral. Do not let that which is not of love, not of God, suck away life from you. The energy that goes to what has withered, is not going toward bearing fruit. And our God is glorified when we bear much fruit. Pruning is not punishment but liberation.
And yes, we can use that liberation, that freedom in service of love, we can use the freedom of pruning to abide more deeply in God.
Our God is a God who prunes. Our God is loving, liberating, and life-giving. May we abide in love.