03 June 2009

To be Real

Easter 6  - To be Real                                                                                                         

Canon Sharyn Hall

17 May 2009

John 15: 9 – 17                                                                              

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time.”

This is a brief quote from the children’s book entitled, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit.’ The book was written by Margery Williams in 1922, and has become a classic work enjoyed by many generations of children. The story is about toys becoming real because they are loved, but the underlying wisdom of the story is about people. Margery Williams understood how toys and people become real through the experience of love.

Although I knew of the book, I did not read the whole story until a young couple asked me if they could include a brief excerpt from the book in their wedding. When I read the book, I quickly saw the connection between the message of the book and the gospel story for today. Both ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ and this gospel emphasize the amazing power of love. The transforming power of love is what Jesus is talking about when he says, ‘Abide in my love and your joy will be complete.’

Jesus is talking about love, which encompasses every kind of relationship, including the kind of love between two people who want to join their lives together, also the kind of love, which can grow within members of a family, and the kind of love we might call compassion for anyone in distress, and the kind of love, which calls us to stand up against injustice and oppression of people we do not know. When Jesus says, ‘Abide in my love’, he is describing the love he has for us, and he is calling us to build relationships of love with others.

When Jesus says, ‘IF you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,’ he is not placing a condition on his love, he is offering the means to abide in his love. That little word, ‘IF’ can be interpreted in different ways. It can be seen as a warning – in other words, ‘you only receive the love of Jesus and the love of God IF you keep the commandments.’ Some people believe that they can only earn God’s love and the love of Jesus by striving to follow many rules, particularly the ten commandments of Moses.

The ten commandments are inspired commandments to live by, but Jesus did not call them the greatest commandments. To him, the greatest commandments were to love God and to love people – a few words, but words packed with challenge. These are the two commandments, which open the way to abiding in the love of Christ. They are ancient commandments of the Jewish faith. They are the foundation of the covenant between God and the Hebrew people. The religious leaders of the Hebrew people turned these commandments into so many rules and laws that love was forgotten. Jesus came into the human world to bring back real love into the relationship between God and the people, and to bring the healing power of love among all people, rich and poor, scribe and sinner, priest and beggar.

That little word, ‘IF’, give us the choice and the opportunity to abide in love. IF we keep the commandments to love, the way of love can become a way of life. “Abide in my love,” Jesus says. The word, ‘abide’, seems an old-fashioned word to use in our modern time, but the word, ‘abide’, has in it the qualities of the strength of love. ‘Abide’ means to sustain love, to be grounded in love, and to let love be the guiding principle of life.

To abide in the love which Christ taught us is to see the potential for love in our daily lives. This may sound like seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses, but it is more realistic than that idea. It means to see the possibility of good, when faced with the reality of hatred, cruelty and sorrow. Reality need not be a synonym for the troubles of the world. Reality also may be the potential for compassion, for friendship, loyalty, justice, and for love. To be REAL means to face all the challenges, which love can bring.

In the book, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’, the little boy loves the Rabbit so much that the Rabbit is with him wherever he goes, - in the playroom, where the Rabbit is jostled by the mechanical toys, who think they are superior to a silly, stuffed Rabbit, - out in the woods, where the Rabbit gets a little dirty, - and most of all, in the boy’s bed, when the boy holds him close all night long. This is wonderful for the Rabbit even when the boy becomes seriously ill with scarlet fever. The Rabbit loves the boy and stays with him to comfort him. When the boy becomes well again, the doctor orders that all the toys must be burned, so the little Rabbit is gathered up with the bedding and taken to the garden to be burned. Then something happens. The Rabbit realizes that he can run and jump and twitch his nose. The boy’s love has made him real, so he escapes from the bedclothes and runs into the woods to meet other real rabbits.

This is a children’s story, but it is more than a happy ending. We remember the Rabbit’s desire to be real, to be alive, to be loved. We are reminded that it is through love, both given and received, that we become really alive as God’s creatures in God’s world.

                                                            Thanks be to God.    Amen..

No comments:

Post a Comment