“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:9-11)
Last night I sat around a table with my three daughters, sharing Mother's Day dinner in a bustling Macaroni Grill. I couldn't be happier when I spend time with these amazingly wonderful young women - reflective, kind, creative, loving, silly, profound. I love them, I love what they do, I love supporting what they do and learning from them. I'm happy we're connected, that love flows freely between us. I know I'm blessed with these relationships and they fill me with joy.
When Jesus talks about staying connected to him, "abiding in him" as a branch stays connected to a vine, it's not about moral imperatives. We don't "please God" so that he won't be angry with us. Far from it. As Julian of Norwich is surprised to discover in her visions of God, never can she even catch a hint of God being angry with us. Rather, it's that living in love allows us to fully inhabit the sphere of God. and participate in the joy that comes from deep relationships bound together by a common purpose.
All through Eastertide, I've been captivated by the Henry Dyke hymn, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, set to Beethoven's Ode to Joy. Dyke picks up on John's twin themes of connectedness (in 1 John he'll refer to it as fellowship) and joy. It's the phrase from the third stanza that's been running around in my mind: "All who live in love are thine." But as I consider Jesus' words in John 15, I can imagine him saying, "All who live in love are mine, and living, working, loving together with you brings me more joy than you will ever know."
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day!
All thy works with joy surround thee,
earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
stars and angels sing around thee,
center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
flowery meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird and flowing fountain,
call us to rejoice in thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
well-spring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began;
love divine is reigning o'er us,
binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.