'This is my command: Love each other.’ John 15:17
Sisters and brothers, most of you know, this is a very important week as for a lot of children all up and down the country, this week has been the start of a new year at school and for some, will be the start of a whole new school! Now obviously this is a new beginning, a new start, with all of the exciting and scary things associated with a new start, but I’d like for you to focus on something else today, not just that this is the start of a new journey, but actually I’d like you to focus on what you might get out of the journey. Sometimes when you’re scared or worried it’s helpful to stop, to take a breath and to look at the big picture; to enjoy the good parts of the journey you’re in, and to look at where you want to go. And I think the number one thing that all of you might want to do in your next academic year would be, to grow. There are loads of ways that you will all grow over this next part of your journey, children and adults, so to demonstrate the ways you might grown, I’m going to need some props. A number of these things are of course aimed at school children as today is back to school Sunday.
So at school, we all know that we’re:
1. expected to grow in terms of knowledge, everyone knows that when you’re at school you’re meant to learn lots and lots of facts and ways of thinking to better understand the world, so here is a book to represent that you will grow in knowledge over the next year.
2. Next, of course, many of you younger ones in particular are probably going to grow physically over the next year. You’re at that time of life where you’re going to start shooting up and towering over your little parents soon, I remember the first time I could ever reach the shelves where the maltesers were hidden and it was like I’d won an award, so to represent that physical growth I have here a packet of maltesers.
3. Thirdly, you’re grow in terms of personality discovering who you are, I think I was probably about your age when I realised I love heavy rock music and discovered a load of hobbies for myself, well look here, I was going to bring a guitar but that seemed a bit heavy so here’s a ‘Guns and Roses’ CD.
4. You’ll also grow, of course, in your friendships, you’ll grow closer to people, fall out with some, make up, and over this next year you’ll find things have changed and grown in terms of your relationships with others so here’s a football to show your changing relationships.
5. But by far, by far the most important way that I hope you will grow over this next year, and what we’ve read about in our bible readings today, is that you will grow in love. More specifically, that you will grow in God’s love. Because you see, you can be smart, but without love, being smart is meaningless. You can be big and strong as an ox, but without the love of God, your strength will be meaningless. You can be cool and interesting too, have all the coolest hobbies and even all the best friends but if you don’t learn to love, if you don’t grow in love, you’ll have missed the point totally.
So we must grow and bear fruits of love and in our gospel reading today, we are told to go and bear fruits. That’s a strange image, isn’t it, people bearing fruit like an apple tree. You know I’ve got an awful relationship with fruit-growing. Particularly, I’m terrible and growing tomato plants, I’ve tried to grow tomatoes for a few years now and every time it’s been disaster. During lockdown I had these tomato plants that I was obsessed over, I pruned them and watered them every day, I was on my own a lot and I’d even talk to the things, it got weird, and I probably drove Becca mad with these great triffids of tomato plants that had taken over whole sections of our house and garden. You know, when it came time to harvest these dozen or so oak sized plants, I got two lousy tomatoes. I was livid. I was so livid I threw the plants straight into the compost pile and forgot all about them. Months passed by and I’d all but forgotten about the tomatoes I’d thrown away until about summer the next year and I went to get out some compost and there, growing out of the bin, were these lush tomato plants, with dozens of fully formed tomatoes on, presumably from the seeds of some tiny fruit I’d missed the previous year. And out of those thrown away seeds, great plants with lots of fruit had grown.
I think that to God being fruitful is a bit like that. We can spend ages and ages worrying over the little details, obsessing over how we look or how hard we have to work, especially when we start a something new like a new school year, but actually, if we get the basics right, God will make us fruitful. I obsessed over those tomato plants, but when I let go, God made them fruitful.
And in our Gospel reading today (John 15:9-17), we’re told that to be fruitful the thing we have to do is to remain in Christ’s love and in the Father’s love, we are told to love each other as he loved us and then we’re reminded how extreme that love is, we should love one another with a willingness to lay down our lives for one another, as Christ loved us. To bear fruit, you don’t have to know everything, you don’t have to be physically strong, you don’t need to have loads of cool hobbies or be really popular and have loads of friends. The only thing you need to do to be fruitful is to remain in your love of God. It may feel hard but it’s also amazingly simple; brothers and sisters, commit yourself this year to one thing and one thing only, to growing in love. Grow in love of each other, and remain in the love of the God who died for you, and you will be fruitful in all of the ways that matter.
Sometimes that will be in big actions, or sometimes in the whisper, as God spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-14), Elijah one of the greatest prophets in history, and sometimes we expect for God to tell us how to do things in huge symbols or signs, but being fruitful doesn’t come from that, it comes from that day-in, day-out, growing in God’s love. So brothers and sisters, in all you do, may you hear God’s whisper and be fruitful by remaining in the love of Christ. Amen (from Fr Jordan)