On Fridays in May, we look at the scripture that our campers will be studying during Day 5 this summer of “Awesome God. Awesome Love.”
Prayer: Christ Jesus, you warm our hearts with your continual friendship and care. It is amazing and awesome that you chose to be in relationship with us so intently and intensely. Help us and guide us to be a good friend to you and to all those around us. Teach us to endure in love and faithfulness. In your great name, we pray. Amen.
Reading: John 15:11-17 (Click to read text)
Stop and GROW: After reading the text, discuss/ponder the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Book of Faith questions, which are part of Camp Mount Luther's GROW Time with campers.
QUESTION 1: What scares, confuses, challenges, or doesn’t make sense to me in this text?
QUESTION 2: What delights me in this text or is my favorite part of the story?
QUESTION 3: What stories or memories does this text stir in me?
QUESTION 4: What is God up to in this text?
Reflection: It is hard for me to say that I see how the sacred words of Jesus were ever used to justify or endorse slavery. If you cut and paste or ignore and pick words and phrases you could water down Jesus’ radical words. You could totally miss the extreme contrast. We as true followers of Christ, seek to proclaim and witness to all the words of Jesus. I say this because we live in a time where being one hundred percent truthful all the time is not lifted up as a necessary for speaking persuasively. We live in a time where racial discriminations continue, in direct opposition to what Jesus calls us.
The fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John is a key part of the whole book that focuses on human love working to find a mirror to divine love. Jesus clearly turns down slavery as an opposite to living the way of following him. The disciples, followers and seekers are put into the same group. “if you want to be attached to me like I already am to you—know that I am not calling you slaves, but I call you friends.” He gives major insight into a difference—knowledge, inside knowledge, privileged information. Friends are not kept out of the loop. They have heard the teachings. They know what is to be done. The kingdom has not been withheld. Perhaps a practical ethic here is, “Don’t keep secrets from your friends.” It is also not too far of an extension to realize that you shouldn’t talk about friends or fellow believers behind their backs.
What really cuts me to the core is that I don’t think I am a very good friend to others and especially not to Jesus. Particularly when Jesus also describes the great love of a friend being distinct from a working slave in terms of who would you die for? He proves the ultimate example by loving us before we knew him and loving us even when we would put him on the cross again and again. What if the servant asked us, “Aren’t you friends with that Jesus of Nazareth? I thought I saw you with him. You are friends, aren’t you?!” When we are put to give an answer in word or deed, what will we say or do? Let’s choose life and love and friendship. Jesus does. Jesus chooses all of us without exception.
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