As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Complete joy. What comes to mind for you when you hear this phrase? Is it a person? An activity? A place? A moment? A surprise? A long-awaited arrival? Jesus’ life and ministry is compelling on many levels, but the essence of Christ that speaks so clearly to me is that of pure joy. Here he says it’s because of JOY that we engage the hard, gritty work of love like we spoke of last week. It’s all about sharing my joy, Jesus says.
It’s about envisioning the world the way Christ does- a world where all creation co-exists in deep and lasting friendship. “You are my friends,” he says, because I hold nothing of my goodness back. It’s yours for the taking. And it’s free- because I want to give it to you.
That’s real friendship, right? When we completely trust that our friend offers us goodness simply because of love, not in expectation of anything from us. Do you have a friend like this? Someone you trust to share your deepest self w/out fear of judgment, rejection, or needing to repay them? We each have seasons of friendship, and my prayer is that you do- have a friend like this. And if not, my prayer becomes one for our church- that we might offer friendship in this spirit to one another.
Friendships are created because of shared joy and love. Some people get lucky and have that deep friendship last from a young age on...but many of us continue to search it out. And for good reason- we were crafted by a God who values friendship SO MUCH, that he offers to be our friend. That’s how valuable joy is to Jesus.
I have a friend like this, who expects nothing from me, is always there for me, and I delight in being there for her. I’m lucky to call her my sister. She was in worship with us 2 weeks ago. Alison and I shared a room growing up, engaged in all sorts of antics, including our fair share of fighting. But by the time we were in high school, something clicked- and we became a source of solidarity and joy for one another.
One of the joys we share into adulthood that neither of us could have imagined in our early years is the opportunity to love one another’s children. When I reflect on Jesus’ words “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” I hear this truth: we need one another to complete joy. I love my kids, but that joy becomes bigger, deeper, more resolute when I make space to love my sister’s kids too.
And that circle of love keeps expanding the more we receive it- joy begets joy, and joy is at the heart of friendship the way Christ describes. In fact, this is what I cherish about our faith family- we get to share the joy of Taylor graduating high school, because she’s invested in this church and we’ve invested in her, creating the type of friendship that draws us closer to one another, and closer to God.
It occurred to me this week that friendships, built on trust by sharing a million small moments together, includes being there for each other in both joy and sorrow. And at first, I thought, well it’s the sorrow that’s harder, right? But I think I’m wrong. The more I consider where our energy gravitates, we pray MUCH more often for one another’s sorrows, don’t we. that comes easily to us. It’s harder to share unencumbered joy.
Why? Because we’re taught not to brag. Because we get jealous, because sometimes someone else’s joy reflects our lack of it. Because society has conditioned us to be quiet about our joyful moments. Because we’re human- and competition got us to where we are today, all tangled up in plenty of guilt and anxiety.
Jesus lived the human experience, he gets it. He’s as humble as we come, so it stands it stark contrast the world’s messages when we hear Jesus extol joy: his joy, our joy, shared joy! What would it look like for us to simply share joy with one another? To pursue those deep friendships Christ envisions for our lives: where joy is made complete.
“I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” This is freedom, allowing ourselves to experience joy in friendship. If you have that kind of close friend that emulates Jesus’ free-flowing goodness in your life, thank them today. If you’re still searching for that deep bond, my invitation is this: draw closer to Christ, because he truly, deeply, without reservation wants to be your friend. And draw closer to this faith community- as we boldly pursue joy, made complete in the love Christ has for each of us.
Joy begets joy, may we be people who embody Christ’s joy for one another. Amen!
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.