6th Sunday of Easter
May 9, 2021
John 15: 9, 11-15
What constitutes a team? Well you have to have people willing to be on the team. Those people are usually chosen. You need the chosen ones to be committed to the mission of the team. You need the members to work together in order to accomplish the goal of the team. Most important is an individual who will lead the team—the team captain.
Here is Team Jesus. Jesus is captain and the disciples are the team members who have been chosen by Jesus. The captain sees the mission of the team as bringing the kin-dom of God on earth. The disciples will soon loose their Captain and he is giving them instructions on how to continue the mission of the team without its’ captain.
The Captain’s pep talk before the big event begins: “Love one another. As I have loved you, love one another.. Bear fruit together.” Now this wasn’t the first time Jesus had told them this. He repeated it like a mantra—“Love one another as I have loved you.” Like any great team captain Jesus had to keep his team focused on the mission. Thus, the message bore repeating, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Let’s take a peek at the individual members of Team Jesus. Let’s begin with Peter the most vocal of the members. Peter was as I loving like to say suffered from “foot in mouth disease.” Jesus saw in him the person he could depend on to carry the mission forward. Peter—the Rock—was impetuous, impulsive, forceful and even belligerent at times. While these qualities could be valuable for the leader of the early church in dealing with all the struggles, it must have given Jesus headaches in trying to keep Peter on task at times. Yet, Jesus made him his closest team member.
Peter’s brother Andrew was the opposite of his brother. Andrew was not to be found on the front lines. He was quiet and the studious member of Team Jesus. Jesus knew Andrew’s heart was in the right place.
The “sons of thunder,” as James and John, the sons of Zebedee were called by Jesus, were probably the most uncultured of the bunch. One always knew what the brothers were thinking because they were prone to loud boisterous and impulsive outbursts of opinion and emotion. Their behavior and language was certainly that of “salty fishermen.” They were zealous about the mission but lacked finesse in dealing with people.
Friends, Philip and Nathanael, were a studious pair focused on theology. They studied the Torah diligently and became proficient preachers in the early church. They were proponents of change but unlike the “sons of thunder” they were the quiet ones who were the more conventional students of Jesus.
Matthew worked as a customs officer in the harbor town of Capernaum; a job he disliked immensely. His Jewish community resented him for working for the Romans. He was searching for change and meaning. Captain Jesus gave him the opportunity to find a new identity and to make a real difference in his world.
Thomas was the rational one. His calm scientific mind was a breath of fresh air in the midst of the more emotional reactions of his fellow team members. His faith was hard won but once committed he was steadfast.
James was so quiet to be almost invisible. Little is heard of him.
Simon was an extremist and rebellious. His political ideas more than his faith drove his sense of mission.
Thaddeus was a quiet, kind, gentle hearted member of Team Jesus. He was attracted to Jesus’ concern for the marginalized and unsupported. He was a devoted listener to Jesus’ teachings. Thaddeus advocated for mercy and healing. He idolized Jesus’ healing ministry.
Judas could be volatile and made no bones about uttering his strong opinions. As an insider he was familiar with the workings of the Temple. He most wanted Jesus to overturn the system and bring reform. As Treasurer of the team Judas could be both savvy and untrustworthy of the finances. He protected his own self-interest and would cozy up to anyone that would get him what he wanted. He was loyal to Jesus until Jesus challenged him regarding his sense of direction and his thoughts on the what direction the mission should take. At that point Judas left the team to follow his own ideas.
As team captain, why on God’s green earth, would Jesus choose such a controversial and diverse group of personalities for his team—his inner circle—his disciples who would be responsible for carrying on the mission when Jesus was no longer with them? To bring the
kin-dom of God on earth Jesus would have to prove his principle worked. What was his guiding principle?
Love on another. As I have loved you, love one another. Bear fruit together. Why did Jesus say this multiple times! Because it must have been difficult!
How would the captain get such a complex group of personalities each with their own hopes and dreams and reasons for having faith in him to work together for the good of the mission? He was the common denominator. Once that denominator was gone what would keep the team focused on the mission?
Love one another! If he said it once he must have said it a hundred times. Love one another enough to lay down your life for each other. Abundant enough to be in the mission as a team.
Amply enough to let the world see that being my disciple even the most unlikely, contrary, people can be in community and work for the collective good. Let the world see that this is possible!
Team Jesus challenged the world and its actions, the boundaries of his time, the prejudices, isms of his time by creating the most loyal, fruitful, unusual, diverse, and unlikely team members he could find. They showed the world he was indeed the greatest Captain of any team.
What makes a good team? It isn’t about being of like minds and actions. It’s not about agreeing on everything or having similar personalities. It’s about loving one another enough to listen and respect the differences and unique viewpoints on the mission and of life experiences. The most important aspect of a good team is honoring one another’s faith in the one thing that matters: Jesus, resurrected and prepared to make a difference in the world, one team at a time.
Jesus neither questioned disciples for certain types of personalities, nor did he expect them to adhere to certain principles. They were permitted to be themselves! As team captain he encouraged them to use their God-given gifts and unique personalities to make a difference in the ways they could. They maintained their uniqueness but together they could depend on each other to balance their weaknesses and strengths. They each had a position to play on the team that gave them a way to be participating in the mission. They each found their niche not only in Jesus’ time but also in the birth of the early church. The mission of Jesus gave them something to focus on that was bigger than themselves, bigger than their differences.
Disciples who are not engaged with the mission will focus on their difference. While disciple in mission will focus on bringing about the kin-dom of God on earth.
Our scripture this morning told us that Jesus said:” “You did not choose me but I chose you.” “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” “I am giving you these commandments so that you may love one another.”
Jesus continues the pep talk to the team:” Be united in your mission. I chose and appointed you to carry on the mission I have started, to change the world, to heal the sick and doubting, to proclaim God’s sovereignty and saving grace, to let people know, they are beautiful exactly the way they are in all of their differences and diversity, to be an example of what the world can look like when people work together toward a common goal.
Jesus said:” As the father loved me, so I love you.” We are all adopted sons and daughters of
God,“ said Paul. These messages that claim us a part of the family of God have nothing to do with our DNA, our culture, genealogy or type, but everything to do with sisterhood and brotherhood and the beauty of God’s creation. In the end, it all has to do with love. Love for God. Love for each other. And, belief in a mission that upholds and initiates this kind of
Break Forth BBCC, Team Jesus needs you!