One of my favourite places to visit when I was a child growing up in SW London was Hampton Court Palace –I loved the maze, except when I got lost, I loved wandering around the rooms imagining I was a Tudor Princess and I was fascinated by the Great Vine, I it was planted back in the 18thC and is the oldest and the longest vine in the world. All over it are hundreds of branches, twisting & turning off the main branch, and producing bunches of grapes – I believe it has its own team of dedicated gardeners to look after it.
Although it fills a huge greenhouse all by itself and many of the branches and bunches are a long way from the roots, they are all part of the same plant, and were you to chop one off or it was to break off, it would no longer grow, or produce grapes, and the whole vine would be much poorer for that.
In our reading this morning Jesus talks about being a vine, and he likens us his followers to the branches. If we remain connected and rooted, drawing our sustenance and source from him, we, like the vine produce good fruit, we fulfil our purpose, and we grow and flourish ; but disconnected from him, from God and our roots, we end up withered, and useless.
Jesus calls us to keep his commandments, in order to stay rooted and connected.
But what does he mean by this?
Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus is asked about keeping the commandments, he tells his listeners that there are just two –that encompass all the law Love God with all your heart & Mind & soul and love your neighbour as yourself.
They sound terribly simple, and yet, they are probably among the most challenging words ever spoken; and Jesus says if we keep these commandments we remain in God’s love and will bear good fruit.
In todays reading Jesus goes on to say “ this is my commandment , that you love one another, as I have loved you.”
Again & again Jesus says to us, Love each other, love as I have loved. Jesus’s love for each of us went to the Cross, and beyond, through death and out the other side,
His love for us gave up everything, even life itself, in order that we might know God and remain in his love.
And he calls us to do the same. For everyone.
And calling up to be prepared to give up everything means exactly that.
It means being prepared to give up ourselves and what we hold so dear, to enable others to flourish as much as we want to.
It means holding our stuff, our hopes our needs, lightly, and always looking for the good of others.
But being called to give up everything, even life, is not a justification for war or violence, it never was.
The fact that we are here today, that we still have men & women to honour and remember is not a cause for celebration or glorification.
We’re remembering with honour those who died; who are dying, because we failed to love our neighbour as ourself, because we failed to put others before our own needs.
Our world has not remained in God’s love, the love that lays itself down for others, and so today we come in remembrance but also in penitence.
We come to honour those who had to lay down their lives and to pledge that we will work for a world where love wins and rules, where we remain in God’s love, keeping his commandments to love as he loved us, sacrificially; looking not to our own needs but to the needs of the other, whoever that may be for us.
We honour the memory of those who gave their lives, by working for a world that lives by the words of Him who gave His life for us all, that we might know His love & his peace