May 3, 2015 Text: John 15:1-8
Dear Friends in Christ,
I have been blessed to visit Napa Valley in California a couple of times. When you go there you see row after row of grapevines. They are there to produce wine. In order to be useful, the vines have to be pruned. Without attentive and careful care, the vines will become wild and unruly. Wild vines will grow too many grapes to sustain nourishment and they will wither and die.
Pruning isn’t always pleasant for the vine. It can bleed sap. But the pruning produces a vine that will produce healthier and better fruit. Grapes from this sort of vine can then be used to make world-class wines to be enjoyed everywhere.
Vines need a connection. This connection allows productive growth. Today in our text Jesus says He is “the true vine.” It is a connection we all need. With apologies to Chuck Woolery, Christ is our . . .
Our text begins, “(Jesus said:) ‘I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does not bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (vs. 1-3)
The sinful world is a wild and uncultivated vineyard. Wild branches produce sour fruit or no fruit at all. The wild branches surround us. We have those who think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want and there are no consequences. They scream, “My lifestyle is not affecting you.” Well, yes it is. The actions of all human activity are intertwined. We are all growing from the same tree. The Lord created us all. We are all connected and that is the challenge. That inter-connection with the world can lead us down paths we don’t want to go. I like this quote from Russian author Anton Chekhov who said, “Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.” How true! There are days we feel we are being overrun by the wild branches. We need and long for our love connection.
God provides it through Christ. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (vs. 4-5)
Did you hear the love connection? “I am the vine; you are the branches.” This is our “connectedness,” a unity that now exists when we are living our lives as a part of Christ rather than apart from Him. As branches when we are connected to the true vine – Jesus Christ – we have the forgiveness of sins, and life and salvation. When we live as wild branches, when we let our connection to the world start to take over our Christian life, the vine reminds us we are connected to Him. He absolves our worldly, wild living as we come to Him in repentance.
The question then is: how do we remain connected? How do we abide in Him? Is it just wishful thinking and hoping for the best? When we are connected to Christ by faith, he provides us with the proper nutrition by Word and Sacrament. Look at verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you.” The Word of God is part of our love connection. It is as Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (Jn. 5:24) All the comfort, hope, and eternal joy are granted us by Christ – and all of it ours for the taking from His Word.
We need the nourishment God provides in frequent attendance at worship and Holy Communion. Here is provided on a weekly basis what we need to do battle against the wild branches. We are fertilized so that we can grow and flourish and bear fruit to those around us. And for those separating themselves from the true vine we pray and reach out to them.
This love connection was also showered upon us through the waters of Holy Baptism as it will be/was today for Cooper Mosier. God by grace washes away all our sins. We are crucified with Christ through baptism and we rise again with Him to newness of life.
It is in this new, forgiven life we bear much fruit. The world needs our love and kindness and gentleness and peace and patience and self-control and our faithfulness. Through our love connection to Christ we never stop growing. Through regular study of God’s Word and continual reception of the Sacrament of the Altar these fruits of the Spirit are grafted into our hearts. When growing as branches, we have the power of Christ’s resurrection victory pulsating through our veins. We thrive on the power of Christ.
Really, now, isn’t good to have this love connection?