Last week we heard, “you are already pruned because of the word I have spoken to you.” Those words spoken by Jesus should make us realize how important the Word of God is for us. The scriptures are the most important God given gift to us in order for us to know his heart, his plan for us and how we are to respond to that plan. The word of God shapes us as it prunes us. In one sense God’s word is all encompassing; it prepares the soil , it plants the seed in our hearts, it waters what is planted, it fertilizes what is growing, it weeds while it grows and it produces a harvest for the common good.
But it is not about service as a means of producing fruit for even those who reject Christ and organized religion do good works. It has more to do with us believing enough to share our faith with others each and every day. Our fruit is manifested in how we love and forgive. It is manifested by faith in the midst of disappointment. It is manifested by belief even when all seems hopeless.
How do you always love when some make it difficult to love them? How do you always forgive when the hurt is so deep and so profound forgiveness seem impossible? How does faith remain strong when God seems to be silent and far from concerned about us? We are able to do those things because we have been shaped by the Word of God and because we have been given another great gift in addition to Jesus Christ.
There is one thing I have learned about God over the years and that is God does not hurl a command at us and expect us to find a way to follow it. I have learned that God always equips us to do exactly what is required of us.
Jesus in today’s gospel of John tells us exactly what we have been given. In the verses we read today Jesus says, “I no longer call you slaves but friends – A slave does not know what the master is doing.” Christ reminds us that we do begin our relationship with him as servants but it must change to be a relationship as a friend. We must change from being with him to being in him.
Becoming a friend starts when the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). It is then that we begin an intimate relationship with Jesus and begin to know him as a lover knows their love.
In today’s gospel, Christ also tells you and I that “we will do the works of Christ and far greater than these will we do because he is going to the Father.” This entire 15th chapter of John is all about attaching ourselves to Christ, “I am the vine you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing.”
My trouble and yours is that we try to live out our faith by own will power and fail to rely on what he provides for us to be “holy as he is holy.” So we believe we are left to be holy on our own. This desire to be holy leads us to study, to follow some formula of prayer, to do good religious things but in the end it is us trying to be holy. In fact by doing those things we remain as slaves trying to accomplish what we believe the master wants us to do.
Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us that we are “predestined to conform to the image of Christ” (Rom. 8:29). In Genesis God tells us we are made in his image. In Roman’s 12 we are told to become transformed by the renewal of our minds. Here is a spiritual truth – our destiny is to be like Christ and we cannot fulfill our destiny on our own will power. We must allow the Spirit of God to change us.
In the upper room the night before he died, Christ tells us that he will send us the Holy Spirit. He says that Holy Spirit at work in us “will teach us everything he ever did and said.” Christ tells us that all we need to know about becoming a disciple is available to us by the Spirit working in us “to bring about in us a change in our hearts.”
The Holy Spirit will change our heart from that of a servant to that of a friend. It is when we have that new heart we will be able to come before Christ and instead of just following ritual and tradition our hearts will begin to sing in worship, adoration and joy. With new hearts we will bow in adoration, we will embrace Christ in each other and our worship will become animated. Joy, peace, love, patience, kindness, forbearance and faith will flow from us. All this happens because of the Holy Spirit at work in us. It moves us beyond worshiping out of duty or habit to worshiping in spirit and truth.
The only act of will that we need to do is to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and allow it to do its work of transforming us to be like Christ. My brothers and sisters there is so much more in store for us if we just begin to allow that Spirit to guide us. Without the Holy Spirit our heart will always be selfish and will resist pruning. With the Spirit we will become exactly what God intended us to be – disciples dong what Christ did. I invite you over the next several weeks to pray a prayer of surrender. Like Mary say in prayer “let it be done to me according to your word.” Then ask God to pour the Spirit into your heart.