Summary: Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter with new members uniting with the church.
John 15: 1 – 8 / Stand for Nothing Or Fall For Anything
Intro: As I have grown older, I find myself giving more time to introspection. In a few days I will add another candle to my birthday cake. That has caused me to think about my mom and dad without whom I would not be here. I am grateful to have had the last year with my mother living in the same community. We have had our ups and downs as most parents and children do. I want to ask you about your relationship with your mother. Close your eyes for a moment and think about her. What is or was your relationship to her? Perhaps you might consider words like: love, trust, respect, appreciation. Whatever, the fact is that your relationship is or was likely deeply felt and very personal. It is that kind of relationship we should have with God --- deeply felt and very personal.
I. In his farewell discourse, Jesus explains for us and his followers the significance and nature of his relationship to God through the use of the “I AM” sayings. VS. 1 – “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.”
A. This is the final “I AM” saying in this gospel. It is the governing metaphor of this unit of scripture in which Jesus identifies himself with a symbol common to the religions of the Mediterranean world.
B. Throughout the OT (Jer / Ezek / Hos / Isa / Ps) the “vine” is a symbol of the people of God, the house of Israel and the people of Judah who hare seen as “the vineyard of the Lord.”
C. Jesus is identified as the alethinos or true vine because he comes from the Father. But, in the vineyard metaphor 3 elements are essential to the production of fruit --- gardener, vine and branches.
II. VS. 2 – “Cuts off / prunes” are the 2 verbs used to describe the activity of the Gardener.
A. The verb airo means “to cut off / cut clean” This activity is reserved for those who do not bear fruit which is a common image used in the OT to speak of the community’s faithfulness.
B. Here the image emerges as another way to speak about the works of love that are required of the followers of Jesus. The unproductive branches are those people within the Christian faith community who do not bear fruit in love. (“every branch in me”)
C. If you and I do nothing for others out of the love of Christ, we are worth nothing. In other words, if you stand for nothing you are worth nothing.
III. Even those who do bear fruit can expect to be pruned. The verb used here is kathairo and has the double meaning of “to prune or to cleanse”
A. For many years I have tried to grow roses. I love their fragrance and the way their delicate petals unfold. One thing I have learned over the years is if you want your roses to continue to bloom, you must “dead head” them. Proper pruning produces more blooms.
B. With this verb John simultaneously evokes agricultural realism and theological truth. In VSS 3 – 4a the words of Jesus build on this double meaning and equate “cleansing” with staying in relationship to Jesus and his word. (“abide in me as I abide in you.”)
C. The verb “abide” is “meno” in Greek. It describes the branch’s relationship to the vine as well as the disciple’s relationship to Jesus. It means to remain closely attached. In other words, we cannot “fall for anything.” We must remain faithfully close to Jesus and his words.
Conclu: VS 8 – “This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” To bear fruit --- that is, do works of love --- is the tangible sign of discipleship. This week in my reading I found a sentence I want to share with you. “We must preach many sermons throughout our lives and sometimes use words.” Today, as we add a brother and sister in faith to our numbers, let us remember our common task is bearing fruit together in the love of Christ Jesus.