Image: Konstantina, ‘Garagula/Water Ripples’, 2022. 

‘An exchange of stories that just might change lives’

Andrew Collis
Easter 6, Year B
Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

Our Easter liturgy has included the song, “You are the vine”, which draws from John 15. John’s Jesus is very much a di-vine figure, inviting all who see and hear him to join him in humility as One who goes to the cross, united with Abba God in redemptive suffering for the world.

“You are my friends”, Jesus says in today’s reading from the same chapter, “if you do what I command you”. 

The di-vine call to friendship is deep and wide, and connotes mutual regard, mutual service, cross-cultural conversation, egalitarianism, democracy, amnesty … We think about needing a friend, being a friend – sometimes choosing a friend, sometimes being chosen. 

We celebrate the beauty of faithfulness, the thrill of a new relationship. The call to befriend, to bear witness, to protect, to maintain healthy boundaries, to encourage and challenge … to accompany, to hold in confidence. Enjoyment, joy … All this …

We may recall losing a friend, the pain of it – friendship betrayed (by jealousy, greed, carelessness, gender-based violence) – and call out that which diminishes and undermines friendship, including deeply racist and colonial habits of mind and heart.

Jesus speaks of laying down one’s life for one’s friends. A measure of true friendship as opposed, perhaps, to mere friendliness. To lay down one’s life entails living deeply for others. Investing in family, community, country. Or, perhaps, laying down expectations, calculations, weapons (Isaiah 2:1-5).

Richard Kearney writes of friendship as surprising gift – friendship, sometimes imperceptible or mysterious, overcoming estrangement and enmity. Friendship as hospitality, the interplay between host and guest. We are all others to each other … and strangers to ourselves.

I recall the testimony of one sensitive sage: “The first thing and probably the most important thing that you can do [as a concerned friend] is to simply listen. Ask, ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ If they say yes (which they might not), actively listen without any judgement. It might seem to be a small issue to you, but to the other person it might feel huge. Secondly, ask the person what you can do to help. These two things are the best things to do and say when reaching out to someone” (SSH, May 2021).

Laying down one’s life may mean offering one’s own story, as well as receiving the story of somebody else. An exchange of stories that just might change lives.

Pruned of certain (European/colonial) assumptions and obsessions, paralysis of thought or action, we may note/feel a resonance, as Garry Worete Deverell urges, between one and another social imaginary, one and another experience, one and another possibility for salvation/wholeness/flourishing …

Biame (or Biami) is a di-vine figure often depicted in the sacred stories of south-eastern First Nations as a sky father. “For Gadigal, Biame – the creator spirit – is a woman, and it’s her birth that created our place. She created our lands, waterways, the plants and the animals, and then she sat on Garangal (North Head) as a Garanga (pelican) and began our songlines” (Konstantina, Gadigal Ngura, 2024).

Jesus invites all who see and hear him to join him in humility as One who goes to the cross (loving, giving, dying and rising, singing, thanksgiving, tending, attending), united with Abba God in redemptive suffering for the world … in a Spirit of friendship. Amen.

Just as Jesus is baptised and hears God say, “You are my beloved” (Mark 1:9-15), so in baptism we, too, are blessed and included.

The water of baptism means the world – the beauty of rivers, fishes and reeds, rocks and sand … everything holy and good. I love the painting by Gadigal artist Konstantina. It’s called “Garagula” (2022), ebb and flow of the tide (Gadigal) … with beautiful pattern of ripples, land-like formations. The artist says: “See for us, the sea, the sky, the land – they are all the same. We marvel at her beauty.”

I imagine that Jesus felt the special joy of touching and being touched by water – the wonder of buoyancy, envelopment … Jesus knew the thrill of creativity – “going with the flow” and coming to be in love, in his element.

To adults, Jesus says: “The kindom of heaven is embodied in the world – in tears of laughter and repentance, rage and grief. Repent, return to God, experience heaven in earth, wind and fire, in water and in one another.” And Jesus says: “Let the children come to me; do not stop them. It is to just such as these that the kindom of God belongs …”

To children Jesus says: “God loves you … before you might comprehend it. God loves you like a mighty whale loves her calf, guiding a newborn into deep water to strengthen its lungs (for breathing, singing …). Teaching and tending. Rejoice in the music of creation – imagination, friendship and play; in goodness most of all.”