To find the full set of tools, go to Toolbox Central. Here is a sermon on Abiding as well.
Jesus teaches us that love is the center of life and faith. His summary of what’s truly important is that we should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart… and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) We are also taught that being loved comes before being loving. As it says in 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” So the starting point in life is learning to be loved, which is surprisingly difficult for many of us!
Jesus uses a particular word and a powerful image to talk about remaining open and connected to God to receive that love. The word is Abide, and the image is the Vine and Branches in John 15:1-11. “I am the vine, you are the branches... Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me… Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” It’s hard to overstate the importance of abiding for the branches. Not only is abiding in the vine what allows the branch to bear fruit, it’s what keeps the branch alive in the first place! The Pipe metaphor points this out as well, reminding us that there’s no outflow without an inflow first. That’s why the icon for Abide has a circle at the top of the pipe shape, to focus our attention on the inflow first.
To abide then is to remain intimately connected to God and receiving the flow of love as a way of life. And as we live moment by moment, it’s a sense of resting in that security. Abiding is what’s envisioned for us when Jesus invites; “Come to me… and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
We believe that God loves us, loves us all the time, and loves us just as we are. But for many people, ”being loved” doesn’t go much further. It’s something they believe, but not something they experience. It’s like a radio station that is broadcasting all the time but we’re not listening to it. How then do we “tune in” to the station? How do we learn to Abide?
The answer to that may be different for different people, and it may be different for the same person at different times! But a good starting point is to look at the beautiful moment of abiding between Jesus and the Father at his baptism. What we see there is Jesus simply listening, “soaking it in” as the Father declares three things to him: You are my son, I love you, and I’m pleased with you. (Mark 1:9-11) Jesus abides constantly in the relationship declared in those three statements. That relationship is his source of strength and direction for all he does and endures.
Learning to be loved can begin by spending time in prayer simply listening to the Father just as Jesus did. Listen to the Father speak those same words to you. Let it wash over you and soak into your heart. Physical experiences can also help us re-center on the spiritual reality of God’s love for us. For example, pausing in the moment when the warm water of your shower runs down over your head can be a powerful reminder of the peace and well-being you have with God’s love showering down on you. Wrapping a comforter around your shoulders can be a physical representation of God’s tender embrace.
John 15:16 (I chose you)
1 John 3:1a (Children of God)
Zephaniah 3:17 (God sings over you)