Summary: As we think about Jesus being The Vine, this sermon challenges us to think about our relationship with Christ and how we move into closer relationship through our lives.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

One thing that I am not is green-fingered, I know how to mow a lawn, and how to pull up weeds, although if I’m being honest they are more likely to be flowers, and I know that roses should be pruned. I don’t know why this is the case, I just know that they grow better if they are!

In the past I have lived in places where there have been rose beds, and at this time of the year we would usually start the task of cleaning the rose bed up and getting rid of the numerous weeds that have sprung up, but one year we decided that we were going to cover the rose bed in a membrane and then put wood chippings on top, the plan seemed to have worked as the year after we could already see that there was very little weeding to do, just the few seeds the birds have dropped which were easily plucked up.

In many ways it seems an extreme way of nurturing growth, but we only had to see the results to know that it worked, and that through our efforts we have removed any obstacles that may have been encountered and had enabled the roses to reach their full potential and beauty.

Our gospel this morning also has a very horticultural feel to it, but instead of it being about the growth of plants, it speaks of the growth that we can experience in our own lives, and the dangers that we face.

In essence it’s a chance for each of us to look at ourselves, and do that which we don’t like to do, ask the difficult question of whether our spiritual walk is all it should be, are we failing, are we injuring others spiritual lives, and what do we need to do, or stop doing so that we can work towards reaching our full potential?

It is as it were an opportunity to do a spiritual health check, and look deep within, even though as we figuratively look in the mirror we may not like or recognise the reflection looking back at us

Jesus uses the analogy of a vine to give us the opportunity to think about who we are, and gives us the example of three types of branches, the withered, the pruned, and the fruit bearer. We know that the vine, Jesus, is strong and capable of sustaining and nurturing all the branches. But to receive this nourishment, then we need to be not just attached to the vine, we also need to be connected to it. In other words, to be connected means that each one of us needs to make a choice as to how we live in relationship with God and our sisters and brothers in faith.

The withered branch is the one in the most danger, this is the person who has lost or is losing the fire of the spirit in their lives, they have become focussed on the temporary and have become solely of this world, looking to their own self-interests, to them their faith is now of little or no importance.

Something may have happened in their life and instead of focussing on Christ and looking for his help and guidance, they have become apathetic, perhaps bitter and resentful; they enjoy nothing more than dragging other people down, inflicting hurt through malice and lies, and are at the core of gossip.

They may still go through the motions in prayer, will try to justify their actions, and perhaps do things because they feel that they should, but essentially, they have lost their way and don’t know how to stop.

The pruned branch is full of hopefulness; Just as with the roses in our garden, when Mikki and I watched on as the new shoots appeared, in anticipation of what was to come, this person is being prepared by God for the next part of their Christian journey.

For the people who are like these branches, God is preparing them, for what is to come, and while is it may at this moment in time be painful, as they are tested, others who don’t understand may try to attack them to take them away from their journey.

It can feel difficult, and at times overbearing, but through these challenges, God has his hand on their lives, He is preparing and guiding them for what is to come, the opportunity to grow, mature and reach their full potential.

The final one, the fruit bearing branch is the person who has gone through the pruning process and has been able to grow and flourish in their Christian life, they are faithful in serving God, they are being nourished by the word and sacrament, faithful in their devotion to God and they have a desire to show His image in and through their lives.

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