Summary: Midweek of Easter 5B. Preached 5/14/2009 for Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church Friendship Home Communion Service, Friendship Home Chapel, Audubon Iowa.
For those of you who either were involved in farming at some point in your life, or enjoy gardening, then the analogy Jesus uses in our Gospel reading for this morning is one that you can really identify with. In it, we have Jesus describing our relationship with Him as that of a branch to a vine. It’s a great picture, one that folks like us in a rural community can really relate to. So in my time with you this morning, I would like to look at this picture of the vine and the branches a little closer as we strive to stay connected to the vine, our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the reading, Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (v.5) Here, Jesus tells us that he is the vine, and we as His redeemed people are branches of that vine. As long as a branch stays connected to a vine or a tree, it’s going to live, but if it becomes severed, it will die right? When I was growing up out on the edge of the city limits of Perry, we had a huge apple tree in our back yard by the driveway. It had to have been there for a while, because it was a pretty good sized tree. Sometimes when we would get quite a windstorm, branches would be severed off of the tree, sometimes with apples on them. Those branches would look alive at first, but after a few days, the leaves would start to wilt, any fruit that was on the branch would start to rot, and all that was left for that branch was the burn barrel. The branch had been removed from its source of life, it was dead, even if it looked alive when it was first cut off from the tree.
Just like a branch of a vine or a tree, you and I are connected to our vine, Jesus Christ. He placed His name on us in Baptism. We stay in Him when we stay in His Word, when we come to services like this one to hear His Word preached, and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. We stay connected to Him when we take time to read our Bible on our own, or read devotional material like “The Word in Season” that I know some of you use on a regular basis. You can even stay connected to your home church by watching the video of our services at Our Saviour’s each week on your television sets here at the Friendship Home, where you can hear the same message preached to you that your brothers and sisters in Christ at the church heard that Sunday. When we separate ourselves from Christ, that’s when we become like that branch that was severed from that old apple tree. We might look alive for a while, but if we are removed from our life source, eventually, Jesus says in our text “If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (v.6)
I am thankful that you all stay connected to your Savior by attending these services on a monthly basis, by watching the video of our Sunday services at church, and by reading your Bibles at home. You’re staying connected to your Savior, who through Word and Sacrament gives you forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation!
But that’s not all that Jesus talks about this morning. Going back to that apple tree we talked about: what’s the job of an apple tree? What makes it different than say, a maple tree or an oak tree? It grows apples right? My apple tree, when it’s matured, grows apples. When there were branches that became diseased or were not growing fruit anymore, my Dad would go out there with his pruning shears and prune some of the branches that were not bearing fruit so that the rest of the tree could continue to bear fruit. Jesus tells us it’s the same with us as Christians when He says “Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.(v.2,4)
As Christians, we are expected to “Bear fruit”. What is that fruit we are expected to bear? First, we are called to live lives of repentance. We did part of that at the beginning of our service this morning, didn’t we? We confessed that “we are by nature sinful and unclean, we have sinned against (God) in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” We repent of these sins, and confess them, but do you remember what happened next? As a result of that fruit of repentance, you heard once again the good news that Jesus Christ has died to forgive you all of your sins. You heard me, as a called, ordained servant of the Word, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, say to you “I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That’s pretty powerful stuff.