The Sermon preached by the Rev. Laurel P. Deery on Sunday, April 29,2018
Easter 5 John 15: 1to 8
When I was growing up we had an arbor, which had grape vines trained up and over it. They were the dark concord grapes with the tart skins, sweet pulp, and plenty of seeds to spit at one another. I loved those vines. At first we had someone help Mom take care of the vines, pruning them as needed. Then money became tight and Mom was left to do it herself, so they gradually stopped bearing much fruit. We just didn’t know how to prune them to best care for them.
It is impossible for a branch of a vine to bear grapes if it is cut off from the main vine, just as it would be impossible for a branch from an apple tree to bear apples if it has been cut off from the tree. We all know and understand this, which is why Jesus uses this metaphor to describe what happens when we cut ourselves off from Him. Jesus tells us, “Abide in me as I abide in you.” Stay with me as I stay with you is how we might say this today. He continues, “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in me, neither can you unless you abide in me.” You cannot blossom, bear fruit, and be fulfilled unless you stay with Jesus. He further says, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” If you let Jesus into your heart and soul and keep him there, accepting His love, then you will bear much fruit; you will have much love to share with others. For the fruit we bear is not for nourishing ourselves, but to share with those around us. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We cannot grow and prosper using our gifts for good without the love and guidance of Jesus.
In 1st John we hear “Let us love one another… For God is love…. Since God loved us so much” that he sent his only Son into the world “ we also ought to love one another…. if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us,” is brought to completion in us. We know how much God loves us because he sent Jesus to live with us and to die so that he might rise again. This is astonishing love which we can choose to accept into our being so that the way we live is informed by this love. Letting God live in ourselves causes us to bring that love to one another through acceptance of each one however they are. God’s love is completed in this act of loving our neighbor. The epistle goes on to say, “We love because He first loved us. Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also,” because of the commandment we have from Him.
The main points of these two readings are we need to let Jesus abide in us and abide in Him if we are to bear fruit, and we need to accept God’s love of us if we are going to be able to love one another, all who we meet. God loves each one of us, no matter what we think of ourselves. When we accept this fact, and let God’s love into our hearts, we are enabled to go out and love another person with that love. God loves first, but we need to choose to receive that love before we can share it.
Jesus wants to abide in us so we can bear fruit. Again Jesus offers Himself to us, it is up to us to choose to accept Him, to let Him be the vine from which we gain our sustenance. Some pruning will be necessary, but it will be for the good, allowing us to fully grow into the person God intends. There is both abiding in, resting in, staying with Jesus and the action of producing fruit, actively bearing our gifts to those who need them.
If we choose to let worldly matters be our focus, we will not be able to do the good we might wish to do. There is a wound and scar when a branch is cut from the tree, and the branch withers and dies. This is true for us as well when we turn away from Jesus and from the love of God. We are our best, most complete and fulfilled selves when we abide in Jesus and his love.
Three weeks ago homeless artists came from Boston to have an art show here. That day the parishioners who were here showed how rooted they are in the love of God and Jesus by the love they lavished on those artists. They are still talking about it to me; how welcome they felt and how generous you were. The most important thing to them was that you took the time to talk with them and mingle with them; treating them as you would any other person. To be acknowledged and accepted is so important to these artists, as it is for each of us. I have also heard from some of you how much you enjoyed having the artists here, how much you learned from them. That event was an opportunity to see how God’s love transforms all of us, both giver and receiver, how God’s love can be perfected in us.
We are so blessed to have this church home to come together and worship God. Our faith brings us together, keeping us rooted in our belief that God loves us and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. We have the opportunity to practice loving each other here and many opportunities to bring God’s love to others. Many have generously donated clothing to City Reach over the past weeks, others have prepared meals at Monday Night Suppers. The amazing out pouring for the children in Syria is another example of sharing God’s love through helping others. I know you also engage people in your daily lives with smiles, warmth, and genuine care. I want to end with a poem by Charles Singer. It describes who we can be when we abide in Jesus.
Look at me, Lord;
with my arms spread out,
my hands open,
and my heart filled with goodness,
I am like a tree!
And I am even bigger
than the tree there in the wood;
because, Lord, I bear fruit in all seasons,
even in winter, when skies are gray
and cold seizes the earth and its people
in an icy grip.
Look at me, Lord, I am like a tree,
and I say to everyone I meet,
Come and eat the fruit of my tree!
Come and share my smile
if sadness has brought you down!
Come and taste my forgiveness
if malice has enveloped you!
Come and pick my friendship
if fear has seized you!
Come and taste my joy
if misfortune has wounded you!
Come to my tree and help yourself!
Look at me, Lord:
just as you asked,
I am a tree which bears good fruit.