Summary: A sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter, series B

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5th Sunday of Easter, May 14, 2006, "Series B"

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Nourishing God, wellspring of life, you give us everything we need to sustain our lives. But, we cannot live as you desire unless you give us even more – the power of your redeeming grace. Graft us into Christ, that into our barren existence, the surging power of your Holy Spirit might nourish us spiritually. Make us into green, growing, and loving branches, that your love might flow from us to those we meet in our daily life. This we ask in the name of Christ, the vine. Amen.

I used to really enjoy gardening. But as I got older, and my schedule for the month of June got to be so busy, with synod assembly, confir-camp and vacation Bible school, I found that I just didn’t have the energy to keep ahead of the weeds. And if you can’t get to the weeds during the first month after you plant, they tend to take over. As a result, I reluctantly gave up my garden, even though I still reap and can a few vegetables thanks to the generosity of a good friend.

Now, I had a fairly good-sized garden. It certainly wasn’t as big as Dean Snyder’s garden, but I raised all kinds of vegetables – and more of them than my family could possibly eat. I kept several relatives and friends well supplied. I even tried some Luffa, and grew my own sponges. I used to think that I could grow just about anything, if the weather was in my favor.

But there was one thing that I just could not get to produce. Shortly after Josie and I moved to Greenville, I bought some grape plants. I planted them in our back yard, put in a trailing fence, and watched them grow. I knew not to expect any fruit the first year or two, but the vines grew, and looked so healthy.

But it didn’t take long before I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about raising grapes. After the fourth or fifth year, seeing the grapes form, only to wither and die on the vine, I got frustrated. So I shared my problem with my friend, who told me that I needed to prune the vines. After telling him that I had no clue how to do that, he came over one day and cut off so much of those plants that I thought he had killed them.

But he didn’t. New vines soon came out from the remaining branches, and later formed grapes – but that fall, the grapes still died on the vine. So I went back and asked him what else I had done wrong. I was then asked if I had used some kind of oil spray, which had to be applied at a certain point of the year to prevent some insect from boring into the vine.

Of course, I hadn’t. And so the next year, he gave me some spray, after he had finished spraying his own vines. But then it rained for several days, and since the spray had to be applied during dry weather, I waited a week or so before applying it to my own plants. Well, I had another repeat of the previous year. In fact, to this day, Josie and I have never gotten a grape off of those vines. We are about ready to yank them out of the ground and put an end to our misery.

Thus, I have got to admit that when it comes to understanding the image that Jesus uses in our Gospel lesson for this morning, I am certainly not an expert. But then, that might just be the first point that we can learn from our text. Jesus says, I am the vine, and my Father is the vinegrower! Think about what this means! The person responsible for the growth of the vine and the produce of fruit, is God, not me!

Oh, when I planted those grapes, I had visions of providing grapes for Josie, who unlike me, loves fruit. I had visions of giving grapes to my Grandmother, who was noted for her Jellies and preserves. I even thought of making a little wine. But I didn’t know how to raise grapes! It takes a vinegrower to produce fruit.

How often we think that we can do something on our own, only to find out that we don’t know as much as we thought we did. How often we think that we know what is in our own best interest, only to find out that that we have made a mistake. And if I can say this about the very natural process of trying to raise grapes, how much more does this apply to our growing in our spiritual life with God?

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