Summary: sermon about remaining in Christ, peace through affliction and bearing fruit.
I’ve been told that a rose bush, left to itself, will get all straggly and tangled, and grow in on itself.
And if left in this condition, it will produce a bunch of not-so-good roses.
It will, quite literally, get in the way of its own light.
Therefore, it needs help in order for it to grow in the right directions.
So you prune it so it will stop wasting its energy and so it will be productive.
A gardener, then, cuts out, particularly, the parts of the plant that are growing inwards and getting tangled up.
This encourages the shoots that are growing—to grow outwards—toward the light.
As I understand it, more or less the same thing works with vines.
Left alone, vines attach themselves to other things, will grow uncontrollably and will become just one big tangled mess!!!
Therefore, a vineyard keeper is needed to keep the vines in order.
The paradox is that the vineyard keeper must cut away lifeless, unproductive branches as well as pruning branches that are productive and alive!!!
At some point, all the branches need to be cut!
For instance, young branches are not allowed to produce fruit for the first few years.
This means a major pruning is needed every season so the plant can develop to its fullest.
With flowers, there is something called “deadheading.”
Pinching off the first flowers produced by pansies, for instance, will make the plants fuller and bring more blossoms down the road.
Yet how hard it is to do that!!!
Those first flowers are so pretty that the temptation is to resist the advice to clip them off.
The laws of nature seem to contradict what we desire.
Still, there it is.
Pruning now results in more beautiful plants later.
At any rate, vineyards and gardens are long-term investments and labor intensive.
With that in mind, in our Scripture passage for this evening, Jesus likens God as a Gardener or “vineyard keeper”, Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches.
Within Jewish tradition, the vine was a symbol of Israel.
According to Psalm 80, God brought a vine out of Egypt, and planted it in the promised land.
Now Jesus is saying that He is the “true vine.”
Which can only mean that Jesus is the True Israel!!!
Jesus is the One on Whom God’s purposes rest.
Jesus is the Way to God.
And those who follow Christ are members of God’s true people.
So, all this talk about the “vine” isn’t just a clever illustration from gardening.
Rather, it’s about Who Jesus is and who we are, and what is going to happen to us as a result.
In a vineyard, the best grapes are the ones that grow the closest to the vine.
The reason is that the vine is where the nutrients are most concentrated.
Therefore, the branches aren’t allowed to grow all over the place.
They are pruned and kept short.
God, the Father “removes any…branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.”
It may be hard for us to hear that the branches that do produce fruit do not escape being pruned.
In this passage Jesus has gathered His disciples around Him to prepare them for His trial and Crucifixion.
He knows the trials they will have to face in the days ahead, not to mention the years ahead and the thousands of years ahead.
And so Jesus is urging His disciples to “remain” in Him.
Jesus knows that this is the only way they will survive.
This is the only way they will have peace.
This is the only way the message of salvation will be able to go out to the world!!!
Rather than this being a note of despair, Jesus is speaking words of hope and trust for their souls.
Our faith, our message, and our fruit always increases when we remain close to Christ and thus are able to weather the storms that come.
Jesus says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”
In his translation of the Bible called The Message, Eugene Peterson uses these words, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.”
Jesus makes His home in the hearts of those who accept and invite Him in.
And in so doing, we are able to make our home in Christ as well.
And in doing so, a peace settles into our lives, the peace of God which transcends all understanding and all situations!!!
And the more we abide in Christ during difficult times, the more beautiful we grow in Christ, the more we can relate to others who face difficulties, the more empathy we have for other human beings, the more we are able to love other people, and the more and better quality fruit we are able to produce for the love of God and neighbor!!!