Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1st John 4:17-21
This morning’s Gospel lesson offers us the opportunity to look closely at a familiar teaching of Jesus that he shared with his disciples as they made their way to the garden together on the night before he was arrested. It was obviously something that he wanted them to know in those final hours together.
Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” Our task is to attempt to decern what Jesus meant by these words. What I believe that we have here is a command and a promise. Abide in me and bear much fruit, but which is the command and which is the promise?
I would suggest that while some may hear the words, “bear much fruit” and see this as the command, that they are missing the point. I believe that Jesus’ command was “abide in me.” You see if we are abiding in Jesus and he in each of us, then we will indeed product much fruit. But, if we are not abiding in him then no fruit will be produced at all.
I believe that Jesus’ promise to each of his followers is that they will produce must fruit If they abide in him.
If we attempt to look at this the other way around with “bear much fruit” being the command, then we may find ourselves thinking what must I do? What is it that Jesus is commanding me to do? What is to be my part in my salvation? What kind of fruit am I to produce….and how much fruit will be enough? This thinking will either cause us to be puffed up from our successes or burned out from our failings. Either way we will end up apart from God. That’s what can happen when we place our focus on the fruit.
However, if we see Christ’s command as being “abide in me” then we will begin to see that we are grounded in the true vine and we will produce much fruit. The scripture tells us that we were all born in sin, however through Christ’s death and resurrection we are grafted onto the true vine.
The men who heard Jesus speak and those who would later read John’s words were familiar with the growing of grapes. Vineyards could be found everywhere and most people would have understood what was involved in producing a successful vineyard. They understood the time and energy that was needed to produce a meaningful crop. It was a hands-on procedure. The vines had to be tended regularly. And, the same is true in a Christians life. God is constantly working in our lives to see that we are being productive. However, if we allow ourselves to become separated from the vine, we will begin to wither and die.
Jesus’ words weren’t lost on his followers and they should not be lost on us either. Jesus commands his followers to abide in him and when we do, he has given us his promise that we will produce much fruit.
But these words are not just meant for each of us as individuals, but for his Church as well. Abiding in him and producing much fruit is not simply directed to you and I, but these are words for us as a congregation as well. What are you doing to be a fruit bearer? What is our congregation doing as well? If the “little yellow church” were to disappear tonight, would anyone in the community notice? This continues to be a part of our Easter message. The risen Lord calls us to abide in him in order that he can be present in the world through each of us.
A command and a promise from a God who is good…all the time.
An Act of Spiritual Communion
“My Jesus, I belie that you are present in the holy sacrament of your body and blood. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this time receive you sacramentally, I invite you to come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were here with me and I unite myself with you fully. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen
A Prayer for the Church and Benediction:
Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.