Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
“Remain in me as I remain in you.” I’ve heard this passage from John described as a love song for God’s vineyard. In just a few short verses, Jesus mentions eight times the need to “remain”…but what does that mean? It was obviously significant if it was mentioned that many times in these few verses as well as other places as he nears the end of his life. In the First Letter of John, the second reading today, he says it has to do with the disposition of our hearts and where they are at this moment; where does my heart “remain” at this moment in my life?
One of the great stories of conversion of heart comes in Acts of the Apostles with the conversion of Paul. We hear the end of the beginning of his conversion story today when he has to approach the other disciples. Needless to say, when he shows up they are naturally terrified of him. They are firmly aware of the disposition of his heart…he live with fear, hate, and anger towards these early Christians. He was one of the best pharisees out there…knew the law better than anyone, but these followers of The Way were about something even beyond that…they were about love, compassion, and forgiveness, and yet, that wasn’t Paul’s experience until he literally gets knocked on his back end and blinded by the Lord when he can finally begin to see what he was doing to these followers, to the point of killing them for their belief in Jesus. It wasn’t until he had the experience of that love, compassion, and forgiveness in the Lord that the disposition of his heart began to change and obviously becomes one of the great leaders of the Church and preachers of Christ crucified. He learned to remain in the Lord, rather than the fear, hate, and anger. If you remain in those, that is what you will become.
Jesus was concerned about that with his own followers as he approaches his impending death. Again, eight times he tells them about remanning in Him; that’s your grounding when the world collapses around you, as it will when they face the cross and it is no longer a love song that plays within their hearts. They become trapped, like Paul, in the fear, hate, anger, and anxiety, and so immediately after the resurrection, they once again experience that conversion of heart when Jesus reconciles them.
As we continue this journey through the Easter season, we are invited to evaluate the disposition of our own hearts and what do we want to be in this world. Does the love song play within our own hearts or is it fear, hate, anger, anxiety that plagues us. Sometimes we need to be knocked down like Paul, or maybe not always so drastic, but conversion is needed nonetheless in all our hearts so that the love song can sing. Remain in me as I remain in you. Remain in Christ and we will be like Christ. Remain in love and we will be love, and it is love, it is Jesus who this world needs more than anything. Remain in me as I remain in you.