Summary: This sermon is about living vitally connected to Christ, the True Vine who produces awesome fruit in our lives.
We live in a world of concrete and metal, cars and skyscrapers. Our food comes from grocery stores, markets and McDonald’s.
Jesus lived in a world of deserts and gardens, rocky clefts and fertile fields. The food that Jesus and his friends ate were the grains they saw growing in nearby fields and the fruit they saw growing weeks earlier.
The meat they ate was from animals that wandered the field and whose smell permeated the valleys and the streets of the towns.
The value of “things grown” was so evident in daily life that no one needed to explain why fruitfulness mattered. There were nothing then of mass-produced meats - a single McDonald’s hamburger may contain meat from a thousand cows.
No such thing as vegetation that was as much science as it was nutrition. Those freakishly huge and sweet strawberries we’re getting use to...there just not natural.
Unless you’ve ever lived or worked on a farm (has anyone here ever lived or worked on a farm?) it probably takes some imagination to picture just what living in such an agricultural society felt like, smelled like, tasted like.
But this is where the Jesus we know lived. This is the place and time that God chose to become one of us.
So Jesus, talking as he did to people who worked the fields and the seas for food, says this in John chapter 15:1-8 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me.
"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you
like, and it will be granted! My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father”.
As you were listening to Jesus words just now you may have had a similar reaction to the one I have when I hear these words.
This is both tremendously comforting good news, full of promise and hope, and it is, at least on the surface, slightly harrowing. Just a little scarey. A bit demanding.
On some days a passage like this can be quite discouraging to me...it can leave me thinking that God really expects a lot of me when He KNOWS that I’m nowhere up to the task.
So then I can start to complain to God that He chose the wrong guy or that, if I’m honest, sometimes I’m just barely achieving survival in what sometimes feels like a desert wasteland of a life, and He wants WHAT!?!
What do you want of me God? You want me to bear WHAT?!? Fruit? You’ve got to be kidding!
I’m no horticultural genius, but I’m pretty sure the first thing you need if you’re serious about planting stuff that will bear fruit is good soil.
When I look around me, I don’t always see a lot of good soil. Crumbling sidewalks inside and outside maybe...but good, earthy, hearty, robust soil? Where is THAT to be found?!?
The Soil of the Gospel
Our key passage today says:6 “This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is changing lives everywhere, just as it changed yours that very first day you heard and understood the truth about God’s great kindness to sinners.
The NIV puts it this way: All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.
Changing lives everywhere. Bearing fruit and growing. The Good News of the gospel transforming lives, healing lives, bringing people to Jesus, bringing strangers together because of a common love for Jesus.
Creating in us a desire to see the justice of God happen around us. The poor hearing the good news. The oppressed released. God’s favour proclaimed.
That is some of the ways the gospel bears fruit, and I could talk a lot about that big-picture stuff. It’s very, very important.
But today I want to focus more on how the gospel bears fruit in our lives personally, and, particularly in the light of the quote from Jesus that we read earlier, how it is that fruitfulness happens in your life and my life.