Jutlus Nelipühal 2024 – Joel 3:1–5
Gustav Piir, koguduseõpetaja

On olemas vanasõna, mis ütleb: „Te peate silmad ja kõrvad lahti hoidma, muidu jääte rongist maha.“

Kunagi tegid šveitslased maailma parimaid kellasid. Minuti- ja sekundiosuti leiutasid šveitslased. Nad avastasid paremaid viise kellade hammasrataste, laagrite ja vedrude valmistamiseks. Nad juhtisid teed hüdroisolatsiooni tehnikas. Neil tekkis idee ise üles keeratavatest käekella mudelitest. 1968. aastal domineerisid kellade turul šveitslased: nemad teenisid 65 % kõigist müüdud kelladest ja teenisid umbes 90 % kogu kasumist.
Kuid kõik see muutus. Tosin aastat hiljem kontrollisid nad vähem kui 10 % kellade turust. Kahe aastaga (1979–1981) kaotas 62 000 Šveitsi kellassepast 50 000 töö. Miks? Väga lihtsalt öeldes olid šveitslased ignoreerinud uut arengut, kvartsiliikumist, mille oli raudselt leiutanud kaas-šveitslane. Kuna sellel polnud vedru ega nuppu, ei näinud ülejäänud šveitsi kellasepad selle potentsiaali. See oli liiga uus, liiga erinev, liiga suur paradigma muutus, et šveitslased oleksid seda aktsepteerinud. Jaapani kellafirma Seiko aga võttis selle omaks ja sai peagi koos mõne teise ettevõttega valdkonna uueks liidriks. Seiko lugu algas juba aastal 1881, kui 22‑aastane ettevõtja Kintaro Hattori avas poe Tokyo kesklinnas, kus ta müüs ja parandas kellasid. Tänapäeval, pärast 143 aastast innovatsiooni, on Seiko endiselt pühendunud täiuslikkusele, mille poole selle asutaja Kintaro alati püüdles. Kui muutused on ees, tuleb silmad ja kõrvad lahti hoida ja olla valmis liikuma, sest muidu on oht jääda rongist maha.
Üks tõde, mille järgi elada võime, on: „Mida ebakindlamad ajastud on, mida lootusemad asjad on, seda tõenäolisem on, et Jumal teeb midagi suurejoonelist.“ Prohvet Joeli ennustus annab meile pilgu uuest vaimsest äratamisest, ajast, mil Jumala Vaim valatakse välja kõigi inimeste peale. Kolm asja on meil vaja teha, et olla valmis liikuma, kui Jumala Vaim oma liikumist alustab.
Esiteks peame olema valmis vastama üleskutsele meelt parandada. Kui Jumala vaim hakkab liikuma, saavad inimesed teadlikumaks patu olemasolust mitte ainult maailmas, vaid ka endi elus, kuid see teadvus iseenesest ei too endaga kaasa mitte hirmu ega abitust, vaid tugeva, tõelise ja enesekindla lootuse. Meie meeleparandus on veidi nagu vann pärast rasket tööpäeva musta töö juures. Meil on vaja rohkem kui lihtsalt kiiret dušši, me vajame põhjalikku leotamist ning puhastust. Sama toimub, kui peseme oma räpased riideid. Me leotame ja nühime, kuid mitte sellise tulemusega, mida sooviksime, kui jääme pealiskaudseks. Tuletame meelde, mida vaene leedi Macbeth hüüdis, kui tema südametunnistus teda vaevas: „Kõik Araabia parfüümid ei tee sellele väikese käe magusaks... „
Teine eeldus on, et tabame ära Jumala poolt pakutud taastamise ja usume sellesse. Kuid taastamine, mida Jumal meile lubab, ei näe välja nagu eilne päev ja sellega seotud sündmused. Me ei saa ajas tagasi minna. Jumala poolne taastamine näeb välja nagu homme päev. „Ära mäleta endisi asju ega pea meeles vanu asju. Ma kavatsen teha uut asja; nüüd see tärkab, kas te ei taju seda?“ (Jesaja 43:18-19) Meie omand, meie harjumused, meie kultuurilised eelarvamused, meie poliitilised eelistused – kõik need asjad on ajutised. Ainus, mis ajastust ajastusse ei muutu, mis püsib kindlana, on Jumala Sõna ja see on, millest me iga hinna eest peaksime kinni hoidma. Kuid me peame piisavalt hästi tundma nii elavat kui ka kirjutatud Sõna, et me ei ajaks segi oma eelistusi Jumala omadega. Selleks, et uuest võimalusest kinni haarata, peame võib-olla mõnest vanast lemmikust lahti laskma.
Kolmas eeldus on see, et peame valvel olema. Asi, millega tuleb ettevaatlikult ümber käia ja mis nõuab valvelolekut, on ilmutus. Mis on ilmutus? See pole tõde, kui vana on mõnel ahvatleval moel ümber pakitud. Igavene tõde tuleneb sellest, et tõenäoliselt räägib Jumal mõne väga ebatõenäolise allika kaudu. Peame otsima märke Jumala tegevusest meie seas, isegi kui need on veidi erinevad sellest, millega oleme harjunud, ja haakima sellega, mida Vaim teeb.
„Siis ma valan oma vaimu kõige liha peale; teie pojad ja tütred kuulutavad prohvetlikult, teie vanad mehed näevad unenägusid ja teie noored näevad nägemusi. Isegi mees- ja naisorjade peale valan ma neil päevil oma vaimu välja.” (Joel 3:1–2). Juudid oleks Prohvet Joeli päevil pidanud enesestmõistetavaks, et nad oleksid uskunud vanade meeste tarkust. Ju vanad mehed olid läbi aegade tarkuse hoidjad. Kõik teadsid, et tuli kuulata oma vanemaid. Keegi poleks pööranud tähelepanu mõne puusepa pojale. Prohvet Joel jätkab inimeste hoiatamisega, et Jumala vägi – nagu ka Jumala tahe – avaldub mõnel hämmastaval ja ebatavalisel viisil. „Ma näitan ettekuulutusi taevas ja maa peal, verd ja tuld ja suitsusambaid. Päike muutub pimeduseks ja kuu vereks, enne kui tuleb Issanda suur ja kohutav päev.” (Joel 3:4-5)
Pöörame oma tähelepanu ebatõenäolistele inimestele ja kohtadele. Jumal on spetsialiseerunud ootamatustele. Prohvet Jesaja kaudu on kuulutatud: „Sest minu mõtted ei ole teie mõtted ja teie teed pole minu teed,“ ütleb Issand. „Sest nagu taevad on kõrgemad maast, nii on minu teed kõrgemad kui teie teed ja minu mõtted teie mõtetest.“ (Jesaja 55:8)
Meeleparandus – taastamine – ilmutus. Need on taaselustamise eeldused. Need on teod, mis valmistavad meid ette uuteks asjadeks, selleks, mida Jumal on maailmas teostamas. Me peame silmad ja kõrvad lahti hoidma, muidu jääme rongist maha.

Jutlus 5.05.2024
Gustav Piir, koguduseõpetaja

Tänasel Rogate’l ehk Palvepühapäeval võtan Martin Lutheri „Väikese Kateksimuse“ ja Martin Lutheri koraali (KLPR 324) abil läbi „Meie Isa Palve“ eri eestpalve lõigud ja seletused. Kogudusel palun siis hoida lauluraamatu (KLPR 324) tekst endal lahti ja iga katekismuse seletava lõigu järele laulame koraalist vastava seletuse kohta käiva salmi.
Viis: „Vater unser im Himmelreich“ Valentin Schuman’i koraaliraamat „Geistliche Lieder“, Leipzig, 1539. Viisi looja tundmatu. Sõnad: Martin Luther, 1483–1546.      
Sissejuhatus
MEIE ISA PALVE,
nagu seda pereisa oma perele lihtsaimast lihtsamal viisil peab esitama.
Meie Isa, kes Sa oled taevas.
Mis see on? Vastus:
Sellega tahab Jumal ärgitada meid uskuma, et tema on meie tõeline Isa ja meie tema tõelised lapsed, selleks et me võiksime teda julgelt ja lootusrikkalt paluda nagu head lapsed oma head isa.

KLPR 324:1

Oh Isa taevariigi sees,

Sa käsid kõiki südamest
Sind lapse kombel paluda
ja hädas appi kutsuda.
Siis aita, et ei üksi keel
Sind paluks, vaid ka hing ja meel!

Esimene palve

Pühitsetud olgu Sinu nimi.
Mis see on? Vastus:
Jumala nimi on küll ka iseenesest püha, kuid me palume selles palves, et see oleks püha ka meie keskel.

Kuidas see toimub? Vastus:
Kui Jumala Sõna selgelt ja puhtalt õpetatakse ning me Jumala lastena ka pühalt selle järgi elame; aita meid selles, armas Isa taevas! Kes aga teisiti õpetab ja elab, kui õpetab Jumala Sõna, see teotab Jumala nime meie keskel; hoia meid selle eest, taevane Isa!

KLPR 324:2
Su nimi olgu kiidetud,
Su sõna selgelt õpetud,
Su püha nime auks meid ka
siin aita pühalt elada,
et kaoks kõik valeõpetus
ja lõpeks rahva rumalus.
Teine palve
Sinu riik tulgu.

Mis see on? Vastus:
Jumala riik tuleb ka ilma meie palveta, iseenesest, kuid me palume selles palves, et see tuleks ka meie juurde.

Kuidas see toimub?
Vastus:
Kui taevane Isa annab meile oma Püha Vaimu, et me usuksime tema armu läbi tema püha Sõna ja elaksime jumalakartlikult nii siinset maist kui ka sealset igavest elu.

KLPR 324:3
Su riik, see tulgu Sinu käest
nüüd siin ja pärast igavest!
Sa Vaimu oma anniga
las meie juures elada.
Kõik põrgu viha lämmata
ja kogudust ka õnnista!
Kolmas palve
Sinu tahtmine sündigu nagu taevas, nõnda ka maa peal.

Mis see on? Vastus:
Jumala hea, armulik tahe sünnib ka ilma meie palveta, kuid me palume selles palves, et see sünniks ka meie keskel.

Kuidas see sünnib? Vastus:
Kui Jumal murrab ja takistab iga kurja kavatsust ning tahtmist, mis ei lase meil Jumala nime pühitseda ja tema riigil tulla, nagu on kuradi, maailma ja meie liha tahtmine, vaid kosutab ja hoiab meid kindlalt oma Sõnas ning usus kuni meie elu lõpuni; see on tema armuline, hea tahe.

KLPR 324:4
Su tahtmine siin ilma peal
nii sündigu kui üleval,
et seega rahul oleme,
mis meile Sinult antakse!
Kõik kurja tahtmist takista,
mis sunnib Sinust lahkuma!
Neljas palve
Meie igapäevast leiba anna meile tänapäev.

Mis see on? Vastus:
Jumal annab küll igapäevast leiba ka ilma meie palveta kõigile kurjadele inimestele, kuid me palume selles palves, et ta laseks meil seda mõista ja oma igapäevast leiba tänuga vastu võtta.

Ent mida tähendab igapäevane leib? Vastus:
Kõike, mis kuulub peatoiduse ja ihuvajaduste juurde, nagu söök, jook, riietus, jalanõud, maja, valdused, põld, kariloomad, raha, vara, jumalakartlik abikaasa, jumalakartlikud lapsed, jumalakartlikud teenijad, jumalakartlikud ja ustavad valitsejad, hea valitsus, hea ilm, rahu, tervis, kombekus, au, head sõbrad, usaldusväärsed naabrid ja muu selline.

KLPR 324:5
Sa leiba anna kõigile
ja muud, mis tarvis ihule!
Meid hoia tõve, tule eest
ja päästa nälja, vaenu käest,
et meie rahul oleme
ja kõige eest Sind täname!
Viies palve
Ja anna meile andeks meie võlad, nagu meiegi andeks anname oma võlglastele.

Mis see on? Vastus:
Me palume selles palves, et Isa taevas ei vaataks meie pattude peale ega lükkaks seda palvet nende pärast tagasi, sest me ei vääri seda, mida me palume, ega ole seda ka ära teeninud; vaid et ta annaks seda kõike meile armust, kuna me teeme iga päev palju pattu ja oleme väärt ainult karistust. Sellepärast me tahamegi omalt poolt tõemeeli ja südamest andeks anda ning head teha neile, kes meie vastu on patustanud.

KLPR 324:6
Meil anna andeks meie süüd,
et nad ei vaeva enam meid.
Siis oma vihameestele
heal meelel andeks anname.
Meid täida armastusega
ja kõiki rahus ühenda!
Kuues palve
Ja ära saada meid kiusatusse.

Mis see on? Vastus:
Jumal ei kiusa küll kedagi, kuid me palume selles palves, et Jumal kaitseks ja hoiaks meid, nii et kurat, maailm ja meie liha ei petaks ega ahvatleks meid ebausule, meeleheitele ning teistele suurtele häbitegudele ja pahedele. Ja kui meid ka proovile pannakse, et me siis viimaks ikkagi peale jääksime ja võidu saaksime.

KLPR 324:7
Meid ära jäta abita,
kui saatan hakkab kiusama.
Kui kuri rahvast hukutab
ja patule meid kihutab,
siis anna jõudu rohkesti,
et usu läbi võidame!
Seitsmes palve
Vaid päästa meid ära kurjast.

Mis see on? Vastus:
Me palume selles palves kokkuvõtlikult, et Isa taevas päästaks meid nii ihu, hinge, vara kui ka au poolest kõigest kurjast ning kingiks meile viimaks, kui meie tund tuleb, õndsa elulõpu ja võtaks meid armulikult sellest hädaorust enda juurde taevasse.

KLPR 324:8
Meid päästa kõigest kurjast ka,
et kuri aeg on elada;
meid hoia kurja surma eest
ja päästa viimse häda seest!
Oh võta meie hingeke,
vii jäädavale rahule!
Aamen.
Mis see on? Vastus:
Et ma oleksin kindel, et seesugused palved on Isale taevas meelepärased ja ta on neid kuulda võtnud; sest ta on meil ise käskinud niimoodi paluda ja tõotanud, et ta võtab meid kuulda. Aamen, aamen, see tähendab: Jah, jah, see sündigu nii.

KLPR 324:9
Nüüd laulgem "Aamen!" rõõmuga.
Meid, armas Issand, avita,
et meie kindlalt usume,
et meie palvet kuuldakse!
Su sõna peale julgesti
siis "Aamen" meie laulame.

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday 2024
Reverend Gustav Piir, priest-in-charge

As I begin to reflect on what Pentecost Sunday has meant and means for the Church and ourselves as part of the Church, permit me to say: perhaps nothing breathes more strongly than the promise and presence of the Holy Spirit in the so-called “farewell discourse” of Jesus found in the Gospel according to John chapters 14-17. Portions of this discourse have occupied our attention during the last several Sundays of the Easter season as we have read selections from the Holy Gospel according to John.
Today in our church we mark Pentecost. Pentecost stands as the culmination of Easter’s reflection on the promise of the resurrection and as a transition to the season of the Trinity. So our gospel reading for today invites us to reflection the assurance of the resurrection promises, now explored and made real in the varied dimensions of Christian life and mission. The so-called “abundant life” is the promise of the unfolding love of God, shown in the glory that is for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ and in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, who confirms that promise in our hearts and sends our communities into the world to bear witness to the good news Jesus has proclaimed in word and deed.
For the early Christian communities, Pentecost marked a pivotal moment when people’s gaze shifted from looking back at their memories of Jesus, to looking ahead to what they must trust to sustain their life after his death, resurrection and ascension had passed into history and memory. This same sense of being on the boundary between phases of life is a recurring feeling through the life of the church, as we are pushed by the experiences we encounter to reaffirm the basis of our faith and confidence. At its heart is the experience of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned only five times in the Gospel of John, and three of them are in today’s passage. Previously, the Spirit is introduced in 14:16, where the Spirit is called both the Spirit of truth and “another Advocate”. If we were to follow the unfolding picture of Jesus’ role according to the Gospel of John, we will recognize that Jesus has been described, namely, as one who stands like a defense attorney beside his followers, accompanying them in moments of joy as well as of trial.
Losing that presence had to be a grief-laden prospect for Jesus’ followers and a grief-laden reality in the community that Jesus left behind. The good news of the gift of the Spirit, though, was that the same help and assurance continued in their new reality: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit would be a teacher who would complete the teaching begun by Jesus. The Holy Spirit would remind Jesus’ followers of Jesus’ teaching when time, grief, fear, or simple human forgetfulness takes it away. The Holy Spirit would be sent by “the Father” in Jesus’ name. This initial promise is simply a word of assurance that the presence of the Holy Spirit will continue to be known as God’s presence as was the case when Jesus himself was with his followers.
The courtroom like setting and language are part of our Gospel reading today. We are informed that Jesus will send this Advocate from the Father, in a picture of the seamless collaboration between Jesus, the Son, the Word, who is the Sent One and God the Father, the Creator, the Sender. Both the Advocate and the followers have the duty to testify to the world beyond the community of believers on Jesus’ behalf, just as Jesus through his testimony has made God known. The community’s witness thus incarnates the witness of the Advocate. Similarly, Jesus himself was the Word made flesh. There is a temporal separation between them in that Jesus must “go” so that the other, the Advocate can “come”. Both are integrated as witness to God’s will and ways. However, this Advocate, while being a reassuring support to Jesus’ followers and accompanying them in their times of trial, shows another side of Jesus’ mission in the world.
This defense attorney becomes at the same time the prosecutor who exposes the errors in the world’s versions of sin, righteousness, and judgment that are not viewed through the lens of Jesus Christ. In this way the Holy Spirit, through the faithful witness of the community, continues and completes Jesus’ “lawsuit” against the values of the world that Jesus has been waging from the beginning of his preaching and teaching. According to Jesus the so called “ruler of this world” is the structure of death that spins round and round with spirits of sickness, destruction, poverty, brutality, violence, hunger, greed, consumerism, and so on. The ruler of this world is turning this life-giving world into a world of death and pain. This world is not the creation of God, the world God made, but rather the corruption of God’s world of life, the tilting of the world off balance.
This world we live in is an “off-balance world” that is turning the whole earth toward catastrophe. Curved into ourselves, we through our sins contribute to the ruler of this world, making us be concerned only with our own pain and demands for happiness, forgetting that every single action we do has ripple effects on others. For instance caring only for ourselves, like having health insurance just for a few, housing just for some, will necessarily mean the exclusion of health insurance and housing for many others. During this Pentecost, our call is to both live a spiritual life bent inward to find our own healing. This is not to be confused with selfishness because we are also at the same time called to bend ourselves outward, to care for others near us as well as elsewhere to the far corners of the earth. It is only with a spirituality grounded in the Holy Spirit that we can keep changing and being transformed.
Pentecost is a call for the Church to live in the full power of the Holy Spirit. Not in the power of budgets, programs, personal peaceful interiority, nor a sort of consumer self-realization. Rather, the call is to act upon our inward and outward selves together, as the prophet Micah reminds us: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” The work of the Holy Spirit in the world today helps us to see where we are to be walking, what we are to be doing and how we are express love, mercy and kindness. The Holy Spirit bridges the realms of the Church and the world and calls us to be alert to meeting the challenges of today’s world as witnesses of Christ. Pentecost calls us to recognize the Holy Spirit as being alive and active not just on a spectacular day in the first century but constantly and always, even now in our midst to make good on God’s promises and to continue to convince those who hear the witness of the Son, that his teaching and preaching is indeed good news and true. Such conviction is also the invitation for us to join in that witness which is indeed for all the world to hear — to become agents of that same convincing for those “other sheep” for whom Jesus also died and was raised, to the end that all may be one, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in purpose and mission. 

Sermon for Ascension Sunday 2024
Reverend Gustav Piir, priest-in-charge

In the liturgical year of the church Eastertide is a journey to Pentecost. On Ascension Sunday we recall that forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, he ascends into heaven. During these past Sunday’s we have reflected upon Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, mission, teachings and relationships. Now there is no power without a season of preparation, without a period of waiting. Waiting is rarely easy and it can be even more difficult to endure when we do not know when the end will be. While Jesus’ disciples were waiting, they questioned when would Israel be redeemed? And just as suddenly as Jesus leaves, the Spirit descends. The disciples may not have experienced this waiting time as a time of preparation. Perhaps this is only apparent in hindsight. Yet, this period of waiting seemed necessary.
When our electronic devices die, or at least that is how we describe what happens when their batteries have no power. We connect them to chargers for a period of time in order for them to be able to function again. Charging is an ongoing process and it also involves a period of waiting. However, many of us may not know that there is an optimum period of time that a device should charge in order to maximize the battery’s life expectancy. For a laptop, it is 24 hours and for most mobile phones these days it is a minimum of 3 hours. We cannot simply pull our devices from the boxes and start to use them right away. If we get a little eager and use them before they has been fully charged, we are negatively impacting their future ability to perform. In other words, we will shorten the life expectancy of our battery if we do not allow the initial charge to be optimal. Much like the fact that we must wait to fully charge our devices, Jesus’ disciples likewise had to wait to be clothed with power.
If their initial “charge” had not been full, they would not have been able to operate at their optimal levels. Perhaps this analogy is instructive for understanding the impact of Jesus’ ascension on the disciples. After the Ascension the disciples return to Jerusalem with great joy and are in the temple continually blessing God. Luke starts his gospel with similar ideas.
Zechariah has a vision in the temple where he is informed by an angel of the impending birth of a son, John. The announcement was going to produce joy and gladness. Then there is Simeon waiting for the appearance of the Lord’s Messiah. Anna continually in the temple praying, fasting and then when the Christ-child was brought to the temple, she is found to be praising God. Now at both ends of the Gospel according to Luke the temple plays an important role, pointing to the Jewish roots of the church while at the same time pointing to the future mission that starts from Jerusalem and heads out into the world. What is stressed is continuity rather than separation.
What is the meaning and role of continuity in the Church today? How do our roots inform our mission and our purpose as a community, our worship, our service and our relationships? In Clive Staples Lewis’ final book in the Narnia series, titled „The Last Battle“ many of the characters move toward “heaven” in a remarkable run that becomes more thrilling and freeing as they are running and which is not the typical result of our earthly runs. “Further up and further in,” the runners cry to each other. An evocative example of continuity and growth in the mystery of love is found in the lyrics of Greg Brown’s song “Further In”. The words are as follows:
„Further in, grandmother; grandfather, hold my hand
as I go on through this life and try to understand
the beauty of your faces I will never see again:
but I know you're with me now leading me further in.
Further in, you friends of mine, they led me further in
I know I've hurt you many times and I've helped you and I will again
you to me and me to you, and us to all of them
the circle that will ever grow as we go further in.”
The final verse could be addressed to the Lord Jesus, whose life for us is, at his ascension, the very life of God:
„Further in, O my love, take me further in
past the place where love hides its face and down to where we begin
so deep in this mystery, my tears on yours depend
and they like some wild river flow as we go further in.”
Of the manifestations of power taking us further into life as a community and church relating to Jesus Christ it is the manifestation of the power that comes from the Holy Spirit “that energizes” our life together. It is the power to witness together: “power with,” a democratic, egalitarian kind of power, which makes the difference between an institution and community that is bent on self-preservation and an institution and community which understands its vocation to be a prophetic witness in society. The nascent church needed “power” in order to carry on its ministry effectively just as we need “power” in order to “perform” today. It is the “charge” and “recharge” that we receive from the Holy Spirit that makes us effective. The Third Gospel ends with implications of how we as Jesus’ followers are to live: worshiping God, waiting on Jesus’ promises, and doing so “with great joy”. We are offered a model for waiting on God that is rooted in hope, experienced with joy, lived out by worship and powered by the Holy Spirit.

Sermon for May 5th 2024 John 15:9-17
Reverend Gustav Piir, priest-in-charge

There is a profound difference between Christianity and a multitude of organized or personal belief systems in this world. While many maintain: “We must do our best to win our escape from the price and penalty of sin.” Christianity states: “God has rescued helpless humanity, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, then Moses, Aron and Miriam, and all who believe, through Jesus. God sent His Son, Jesus, to make things right for us. According to promise and prophecy, over 2000 years ago Jesus Christ, true man and true God was born in the Judean town of Bethlehem. For the rest of His life Jesus obeyed God completely, and won our forgiveness, building a bridge which spanned the transgression filled canyon, the abyss, separating God from humanity. Because of what Jesus has done, all who believe in Him as Saviour, will also find that they are welcomed into intimate friendship not just with Jesus but also with His Father. If for us Jesus is just to be an acquaintance that would be a whole different story in terms of relationships.
In our Gospel reading today Jesus is saying two things: First of all he is the disciples’ friend. He is willing to give his life for them. Secondly Jesus is not his disciples’ equal. He retains a singular position and yet he has brought them into a relationship of reciprocal love, creating a community of friends, willing to sacrifice themselves for each other. The ideal of friendship was important in the ancient world. There were two kinds of friendship: political and fictive-kinship. Political friendship was built alongside patron-client lines. Fictive-kinship friendship was more reciprocal. Friends looked always for the well-being of one another. It even implied the willingness to defend the friend with one’s life. In general, it was more egalitarian than the patron-client relationship, even though in some occasions a friend could act as a broker of a patron’s favors
So, what are some of the implications of these ideas in our world today? One is the nature of Christian love. The love God showed toward Jesus and the love Jesus showed toward his disciples so they could show that same love to each other. When the disciples love in this way, their love becomes impregnated with divine qualities. It is not just an emotional, cozy feeling, but a conscious decision to put oneself on the line and risk everything for the other. This kind of love will make sure that justice is done in the world. One will venture oneself from the safety of the community into the broader society to see that it is transformed by this sacrificial love that Jesus modeled for us. The American philosopher, theologian, political activist and critic, Cornel Ronald West, has said that justice is the shape love takes in society.
Another implication has to do with the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. According to our Gospel passage from John at least Jesus did not die as an atonement for sins but as a proof of God’s love toward humanity. One way to corroborate this idea is to notice that the institution of the Lord’s Supper is missing from John. It is replaced with the washing of the disciples’ feet, a clear sign of Jesus’ love for them. Jesus died as an example of love taken to its most extreme and radical manifestation, the greatest love of all, not as a payoff for people’s sins. Just imagine, what would the church look like today if its distinctive sign would be the towel and the washbasin rather than the cross and the empty tomb. Can you just imagine that instead of the crucifix on our rood, that we would have a washbasin and towel?
Instead of redemptive suffering which has justified so much bloodshed through the idea of the Christus Victor – Christ victorious -, from the Crusades, to this very day, we would have love, the giving of oneself for the other, as the main point of our religious belief and behaviour. In this day and age that is quite a challenge not just for the church but in the thinking of the world as we know it today.
Back in the Old Testament if we were to read through the life of Moses and we would see that face-to-face meetings between God and Moses are regular, and required occurrences. Yet these meetings did not just happen. Moses was intentional about creating an opportunities conductive to see the “face of God.” Throughout the life of Moses we see over and over again, that these meetings are open conversations with God. It is important to note, that this level of relationship and friendship requires intentionality and regular communication. Moses did not only speak to God once in a while, or only when he needed something. To Moses God was not just an acquaintance but a true friend. Moses maintained regular and open communication with God. If we were to look at Abraham in the same way we will discover that Abraham was called a friend of God. God didn’t love Abraham because of something Abraham had done. According to the Book of Joshua we know that Abraham worshiped so called “false gods” before God called him. Likewise, God doesn’t love us because of anything we have or have not done. God’s love for Abraham, God’s love for us isn’t based on our worthiness at all, but on God’s goodness. Based on God’s love.
Today if we were to reflect on those people we count as our closest friends, it is those who have been loyal to us through thick and thin. It is those who we can count upon when the chips are down. Maybe it is our spouse or one or two others that we count as close friends.
We all have acquaintances and we call them our friends but in life we may have one or two intimate close friends. The term "friend" conveys a sense of closeness, trust, and sharing. Very simply, friendship means a close or confidential friendship. This is the kind of relationship Jesus is talking about in John’s gospel. Jesus wants to be our close, intimate friend, and not just someone we are acquainted with. Jesus has initiated a friendship with us. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus called us to believe in his death and resurrection. As Christians we are called to be friends just as God called Moses and Abraham, and Jesus his disciples.
Now it is up to us if we want to an acquaintance or a friend. We’ve all heard and perhaps used the phrase “fair-weather friend”. We use it of those people who are pleased to be our friends when everything is fine and going smoothly. It is remarkable that Abraham was termed the friend of God. The great, almighty, ever-present and all-powerful, all-knowing God was the one who made this statement. This was not Abraham’s assessment of his relationship with God, nor what Abraham thought about God. It was a statement that God made about Abraham. Abraham obeyed God and kept God’s commandments. He obeyed God even when he didn’t know the outcome. Let us recall Isaac. God gave Abraham a test to sacrifice his son. When Abraham received the instructions to kill Isaac, can we image the conflict, the turmoil that when through Abraham’s mind. There is no record of Abraham questioning God nor is there any record of Sarah vetoing Abraham’s taking Isaac with him, not because she did not catch Abraham sneaking out of the tent but because Sarah’s faith is just as powerful as Abraham’s. Abraham did as God commanded. Abraham demonstrated his loyalty to his creator. Abraham demonstrated that he could be depended on to carry out God’s will no matter how difficult the assignment.
Now, Jesus is asking us, his friends to obey his commands. Jesus said: "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." If we love God and want to grow in our knowledge of Him, we will obey his commands. It is in our obedience that God discloses the “God-self” to us. Jesus said, "You are my friends if you do what I command". One of which is to be Jesus friend and then in turn, for us to love each other as Christ has loved us.