The Fifth Sunday of Easter - Reflection

‘[Jesus said]: ‘If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit’’ - John 15:5

Friends, choice is everywhere. The freedom to choose seems to be the basis of modern society. What to wear in the morning? Did you know, Levi has six different categories for men’s jeans? ‘Straight’, ‘slim’, ‘tapered’, ‘loose’, ‘bootcut’, and ‘skinny’; choose one of those categories… ‘Straight’ for exampleand the options increase to: ‘501 Original', ‘501 ’93 Straight’, ‘514 Straight’,‘505 Regular’, ‘555 ’96 Relaxed Straight’ and that’s just one company, for one type of trouser! What to eat for breakfast? Did you know, Kelloggs has fifteen different breakfast cereals to choose from, including, but not limited to ‘Cornflakes’, ‘Branflakes’, ‘Coco Pops’, ‘Rice Cripsies’ and ‘Special K’…and that’s just one company. Choice is all around us and it’s paralysing. Increased choice has led to is more and more stress. Freedom to choose anything seems to mean we commit to no one, all the while feeling stressed, why? Because we could have picked something else, could have done, lived, eaten, or worn something else. In the year 2000 one university conducted an experiment: they went to a normal supermarket on a normal day and they put out a display with twenty-four different types of jam, and watched what people would do. On other days they put out the same display but with only six types of jam, and again watched what people would do. You know what, when the display had twenty-four types of jam, yes, more people stopped to look but fewer people actually bought jam than when there were just six types on offer! In fact, when there were just six types of jam people were ten times more likely to buy a jam than when they had twenty-four different options. Decision paralysis! More than that, when they followed up those who had bought jam the ones who had bought a jam on the days when twenty-four where available were less likely to be satisfied with their jam than those who bought jam on days when six were available. Why? Because people felt that with twenty-four options they should have picked the perfect jam there was a lingering suspicions in their minds that perhaps one of the other twenty-three options might have been better. Decision dissatisfaction! Decision paralysis, I don’t know which to choose! Decision dissatisfaction, I don’t know if I picked the right one. We think more choice is better. We think freedom to choose anything, is freedom to be happy; and whilst choice is good, there comes a point where too much choice just leads to paralysis and dissatisfaction. 

This morning in our readings Jesus gives us a different approach, Jesus says ‘choose love’. Why does choosing love help? Because love automatically and necessarily limits us; and limitation gives us focus and peace. Choosing to be limited—it turns out—gives us true freedom. Our second reading (1 John 3:18) this morning says this: ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ You see, we can’r love everyone we can only love someone. We can’t love humanity we can only love humans. To truly love we have to choose, we have to decide, we have to commit. The Gospel today (John 15:1-8) can be summed up as Jesus saying ‘You have to choose, you have to decide'; more than that, Jesus says: ‘I want you to choose Me! No just choose me once, but’, says Jesus, ‘keep on choosing me’. Why? Because He knows that’s the best way to live, that’s how we are empowered and how we can bear lasting fruit. In the words from the Gospel, Jesus says: ‘Remain in me’. ‘Stay here, stick with Me.’ What does that look like?…well maybe like this: Ask yourself ‘Where am I going to settle? Where am I going to choose as the place to be?’ Maybe some of you are checking this church community out for the first time. That’s great, and you’re most welcome, get to know us, ask your questions; but then at some point you’re going to have to decide: this church or another. Maybe some of you are working out what you do on Sunday mornings: is it football, is it TV, or is it church. It is easy to flit, one week I’ll do this, next week I’ll do something else, but that way you’ll never be satisfied! At some point you’ve got to choose, you’ve got to commit, you’ve got to remain. It might help to think about this as being plugged-in. Choosing to be plugged into church, for example, this church, St George’s church. When we think about being plugged in we think of TVs and microwaves, right. Jesus says in our Gospel this morning:‘apart from me you can do nothing.’ Notice he doesn’t say, apart from me you can do less, no He says apart from me you can do nothing. A TV which isn’t plugged in doesn’t give a poorer picture it gives you no picture at all. A microwave which isn’t plugged in doesn’t give you lukewarm food, it doesn't do anything to your food at all! If the TV or the microwave is going to be useful, if it’s going to fulfil its’ purpose it needs to be plugged-in, and by being plugged-in they are limited, right, they can only be a cord’s distance away from the power source! By being plugged-in the TV is automatically limited but it’s also automatically powered! The choice, the decision, is to choose Jesus. To be limited to Jesus. To be plugged into Jesus. And this decision to be limited—this decision to be plugged-in—is the decision which gives the power to really love. The decision limits us, but the limiting makes us free, the limit empowers us. The decision to be limited is like a promise, the kind of promise we make at a wedding service. In a wedding we make a choice, we make a decision; we choose to limit ourselves in order to love the other person. From that point on whenever the groom meets another lady he doesn’t have to ask himself ‘is this the one,’ no, he has made his choice, he has chosen to love his wife. From that point on whenever the bride meets another man she doesn’t have to ask herself ‘is this the one,’ no, she has made her choice she has chosen to love her husband. Husband and wife no longer have to ask these questions, why? Because they’ve made a promise, and because they’ve made a promise, they are free to love—to properly love—one another forever.

This morning, in the readings Jesus asks us to choose Him, to choose Him for life. To say: “Jesus is my God, so Sunday mornings I know where I’m going to be, I’m going to be at St George’s.” To say: “Jesus is my God, so each day I’m going to set aside twenty minutes to spend time with Him in prayer and Scripture reading.” To say: “Jesus is my God so I’m going to let my family and friends know by inviting them to church”. Making this choice—the choice to remain with Jesus—will limit you, but it will empower you to really love, and in that love to find true freedom and true peace. If you want real freedom, real life, real peace, then you have to choose, you have to commit, you have to remain. Jesus said: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit’. Amen (from Fr Mike).