Abide In Me
Record flood levels in the eastern provinces. Record gas prices. Lawsuits being filed against long-term care providers. The van attack on Young Street. And to all this Jesus’ response is, “Abide in me. Abide in me.”
A young man’s trembling voice and red eyes declare the burden of his heart. “I thought being a Christian was going to make my life better. You know, full of peace and joy. But it’s hard.” Again, Jesus’ simple response is, “Abide in me.” Really Jesus? No offense here but this seems a little dismissive. Like your not appreciating the weight of these concerns. It’s feels like the kind of answers we’d get in Sunday School, when we still believed in fairy tales. Just abide in you and magically everything’s going to be okay?
Still, one has to wonder. Look at Jesus’ life. Maybe this does work.
Wasn’t Jesus poor, owning nothing but the robe on his back and the shoes on his feet? Wasn’t he itinerate, spending his life living off the good graces of others. Some would call him a beggar. And yet, here was Jesus- living this joyous life, loving the little children, calling them unto him, cradling them, tickling them, and playing leap frog with them on the mountain side. Was this not the Jesus who said of himself, “Foxes have dens, birds have their nests, but the son of God has no place to lay his head?” who could still see a field full of flowers in his hungry wanderings and declare, “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If God looks after the flowers of the fields, how much more will he look after us?
I like to think that, as a boy of twelve standing in the temple debating with the elders, Jesus had a little twinkle in his eye as he messed with their minds. Feasting with those who others wouldn’t let through their front doors. Reaching into a crowd and touching the hand of an embarrassed woman, healing her bleeding with an expression of love upon his face…This was undoubtedly a man who lived with joy embedded deep within.
But is this a statement of faith or simply a sunny disposition? Someone who chooses to keep on the sunny side of life as good old Merle Haggard once wrote. No disrespect to Norman Vincent Peel’s Power of Positive Thinking, but I have to wonder where that sunny disposition went when Jesus did a face plant into the dirt of Gethsemane praying with such desperation that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. No smiles here as he confessed his mortal fear and asked God to give him a pass on this one. Where’s the sunny side of life as he was humiliated before all of Jerusalem standing before them stark naked, beaten within an inch of his life, and heard the voices of those he tried to love yelling to crucify him just because they would rather have a few coins jingling in their pockets than see justice being done? Is there any sunny side of life upon a cross?
Yet, even as he foreshadows all this for the disciples, his prescription for their survival is simply, ‘Abide in Me’.
An understanding of the context of these words may be helpful here. Jesus was raised in a small village. If you have ever lived in a village, you may appreciate where Jesus is coming from. People who live in villages may not always get along, may not even like each other, but they need each other. Their survival depends on each other.
I ministered for a time in the village of Rockton, quite literally a by-pass off Hwy. 8. If anyone got married in Rockton, the reception was always held at the community hall, the dinner always provided by the community was always a turkey dinner with all the fixin’s. The local country and western band played and the dance was always a ho-down.
Although not everyone went to church, all the men in Rockton belonged to the Lions Club, all the women to the Women’s Auxiliary. A farmer in Rockton lost his chicken farm in a fire. A few days later, everyone in that community took a day off work, local business loaned the use of their equipment, the school even closed, and everyone was there to help with the clean up.
When the community needed money, they wrote and produced their own dinner theatre which people would line up the night before just to buy tickets. Rockton boasts the world’s largest country fair, all done by the community.
A tragic death of two sisters hit by a drunk driver brought the entire community to the funeral. Again, even the school closed. Many people had to stand on the grass outside the church to participate in the community’s grief.
That’s what Jesus meant when he invites us to abide in him. Jesus is inviting us into a relationship that is more than just dependable. It is a relationship he knows we need for our own survival. Jesus says “God and I have this incredible relationship. As I walk through the mire you have made on the surface of this world, I walk with my heart entrenched in the very core values that give this world it’s foundation.
I abide in God and God abides in me. I now invite you into that relationship. I want you to discover the roots of the vine that dig deep into the foundations of life, past all the surface mud to the energy that creates life. Abiding in each other we dig deep to find the nutrients of grace, justice, peace, and the greatest of all, love.
“So, if you want to be may disciples, to abide with God and myself in this relationship, then you must learn how to love, how to love each other from the lowest to the greatest, and even those that despise you.
This is not an option. To be able to draw life from the vine, to depend on nourishment from this vine, my commandment to you is that you love one another.”
There’s always a catch, isn’t there? Can’t Jesus just perform one of his miracles and poof- everybody’s happy? Jane Fonda, during the struggles of her life said something once which was pretty profound. She said,
“You don’t learn from successes;
you don’t learn from awards;
you don’t learn from being a celebrity;
you only learn from your own wounds and scars;
from your mistakes and failures.
That’s the simple truth of life.”
That’s why God needs to do a little pruning.
When I go to get my hair cut, the first thing my hairdresser always says to me is, “So how did it go last time?” That’s our code for “What did your wife think of your last hair cut?” To which I always respond, “Oh great! Just fine,” because I really don’t remember whether she liked it or not, (might just be some selective hearing going on here) and 2 (this woman who cuts my hair is the professional. I trust her, to just do her thing.)
So let’s remember it is not us who is holding the pruning sheers here. If we try to prune our lives ourselves as we always seem to want to do, it might be like trying to give ourselves our own haircuts. It would not be pretty. We would want to prune from our lives everything that caused us pain, work really hard at not having any scares and certainly avoid any failures. But then, how would we grow? It is God who holds the sheers, the creator of life, and the professional groomer of this life. We need to trust God. It may hurt when God says, “I think I’ll take a little snip off your dependency upon financial stability, a little off the edge of your desire for good health, and a snippet here from your comfort and privilege. How long would you be willing to sit in that chair? That’s why Jesus says, “Abide in Me.”
Just one last quick thing here. Sometimes life seems insurmountable. There are times we feel the pain so badly, the futility of this world so deeply, it becomes depressive. Jesus keeps on saying “Abide in Me.”
Notice, Jesus doesn’t say ‘abide with me.’ Jesus says ‘abide in me.’ Have you ever abided in someone, simply surrendered everything and allowed yourself to be held in their arms, rest your head upon their shoulders, and simply let go? I hope you have all had that experience.
Sometimes in this life, when you’re exhausted of trying to figure it all out, when the mud of this world clinging to you boots becomes so heavy that you just can’t trudge through it any more, you simply need to fall into the arms of Jesus and abide in him. Just let it all go and find repose in the arms of God who is the great architect of life.
Abide in me.
Abide in me.
Abide in me
and you shall find rest.