Saturday, May 2, 2015
Love One Another
(Note: The following questions are taken from the method in my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted; A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching. They are found in the appendix of that book and this blog is meant as a companion to my book, and my book as a companion to other preaching texts.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? Jesus is speaking imperatively throughout this text, John 15:9-17. Most simply, "Abide in my love." (vs. 9b) Jesus is also announcing that we are no longer called servants, but friends, and it is he who has chosen us, not we him. (vs. 15-16). The commands are a call to obedience. The command to love is the call to respond to God's love. The announcement that we are chosen and we are called friends is pure gift, pure gospel.
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? A word of Law is not explicitly present here. There is not, in my definition of the Law, a word here that says, "You need Jesus." This can be implied perhaps, for instance, by infering that our joy will not be complete apart from Jesus, but we will need to produce this word from other texts in order to complete this sermon.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? As always we identify with those being addressed by Jesus, not with Jesus himself. So here, we hear the call to abide in Christ's love and to love one another, and we hear the announcement that we have been chosen and are called friends.
4. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? This text, as said above, is primarily the call to obedience. It will be important for the preacher to be sure to make clear that this call to love is not announced as a precondition for God's love or favor, but a response to that love.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Ignored/chosen. Joyless/joy-filled.
6. Exegetical work: It is interesting to note Luther's sermon on this text (Luther's Works, Vol. 24). Like Brown he says, "This [loving] is the meaning of the words 'that you should go and bear fruit.' You need not go to Rome or Jerusalem, but you are to go to your neighbor." One other quick note is that all the conditional phrases in this 15th chapter of John are conditions of uncertainty. So verse 10 might well be translated, "Whenever you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love..."
7. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? As always I would refer you to the archived text studies at crossings.org under the 6th Sunday of Easter to see some models of Law and Gospel design.
8. Insights from the pioneers of the New Homiletic? Eugene Lowry's advice to always move your listeners from disequilibrium to equilibrium is key. His book, The Homiletical Plot, outlines how to achieve this.
Blessings on your proclamation.