May 2, 2021 John 15:1-8

 

Let us pray: Nourishing God, You give us everything we need to sustain our lives. But, we cannot live as You desire without the power of Your redeeming grace. By the surging power of Your Holy Spirit please nourish us into green, growing, and fruit bearing branches You want us to be. May Your love flow from us to those we meet in our daily lives. This we ask in the name of CHRIST, the vine. Amen.


What saves us from self-destructive tendencies? What empowers us to the very highest good of which we are capable?

The answer to both questions is Jesus abiding with us. God’s love is assured for all of us if we abide in Jesus. God has done all that is needful for our eternal salvation. As we stay connected to the main vine, as we allow the pruning to cut out all the dead wood in our lives, we know that death has no victory and our lives are given real purpose and meaning, reflected in our love for God and one another.

Connection to the real vine is essential. Take cut-flowers for instance. They look good for a while but without roots, soon wither and die. To abide in Jesus is to have roots. To abide in Jesus is to allow the life to flow from the roots to our lives. To abide in Jesus is to remove all that would hinder that connection created by God the Father. This world would have us grow all sorts of non-productive foliage with the false assumption that this world is all that matters.

Our life as a congregation is part of our connection to the vine. We gather to worship to taste and see the goodness of God. We gather to make confession of ways in which we have lived contrary to the life in the vine and we hear words of forgiveness. We gather to open our hearts and minds to the very word of God.

Someone once said that the secret of pruning is to trick the plant into thinking that it is dying so it will produce greater amounts of fruit. This kind of language is the language of faith. We are to “die to self”, “those who love their life will lose it”. It’s the language of baptism. “Our Father liberates us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus CHRIST.” It is the language of funerals, “When we were baptized in CHRIST Jesus, we were baptized into his death. We were buried, therefore with him by baptism into death . . .”

Like a plant, we are reminded over and over again that we are dying, and the time to bear fruit is now.

The word “abide” is used repeatedly in the Gospel. Our lives are to be connected to the vine, Jesus CHRIST. All the rest is show and will not bear good fruit. In the Epistle reading the word “love” is fourteen times. This is how we know we are connected to the true vine, as God abides in us and we in God, love flows to all those around us. For love we are created, in love we find our purpose and joy.

When our basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and transportation are met, we have all we need. What are the basic essentials of our lives that help us to love and what gets in the way?

If we were to be pruned today, what would be cut off?

What looks good in our lives but does nothing to contribute to our ability or willingness to love others? Anything that helps us love God and others will stay, and all that detracts from our love for others must go.

God wants us to recognize the pruning needed in our lives. Then we can organize ourselves so that we can live out the fruit of love to those near and far. We commit ourselves to the life of this congregation to be nurtured and fed; to help us discern the parts of our lives that need to change. We hear the word of God in scripture, hymns and preaching and we understand God’s way is the better way.

A woman celebrated 50 years of work with Salvation Army. She spoke of working in the food bank and thrift store; she remembered the many lives she had been allowed to help along the way and she felt truly blessed. She had very little in terms of material wealth, but that was inconsequential. She had been used by Jesus to love others. She was connected to the vine and she knew it. She had made decisions all her life that were in keeping with a connection to the vine and she was blessed.

As Christians when we grow in the strength of our faith, our lives take on the characteristics of God, and we are confident and loving in our witness. Connected to Jesus, the vine, God’s life runs through us. Transformed, we transform the world in which we live.

Let us pray: Holy and gracious God, You have called Your people together to worship You and to learn of Your wonderful ways. Inspire us with Your Holy Spirit so that we may remain on the vine and share our faith and love for CHRIST. May our worship and our outreach be pleasing to You, O LORD. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

 

 
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