Sunday, 6 May 2012 ~ “Vine, Branches and Spirit”

Scriptures:             John 15:1-17                   Galatians 5:22-23

LET US PRAY:  O God who loves us and calls us to live in Him: open our ears to hear Your message; open our hearts and minds to become Your Living Word every day.  Amen.

ABIDE is such a wonderful word, isn’t it?!  It has so many rich layers of meaning  (what does it mean to you?) 

REMAIN with                          REMAIN united to

Be CONNECTED                    Be CENTERED

Find SECURITY                      SOJOURN with

In other words … ABIDE gives us a sense of relationship and intimate connection.

And that certainly comes through from our Gospel reading today.

Jesus invites us to ABIDE … not just WITH … but IN Him ~ 100% connected and enmeshed in His life and love.

  • “I am the vine”, He says, “and YOU are the branches.”
  • Uses the image of the vine that provides life-giving nutrients for the branches.

As we abide in Jesus, our true vine, we are fed ~  PHYSICALLY / EMOTIONALLY / SPIRITUALLY.

And, when you think about it, that’s mostly what we do in the church.  Church is where we learn to abide in Christ.  Here in church we study scripture.  We also come to church in order to develop those habits and practices through which we can keep connected with the living Christ and abide in Him.  Church is where we touch base with what is really important in life and where we can connect with what endures.

When world / life overwhelms us … it is within the Body of Christ that we can sit quietly and catch our breath.  It is where we can find our center and regain our equilibrium as we continue to trust and confidently abide in Jesus..

ANDthen: Jesus invite us to ABIDE with Him … to be nourished and refreshed in His grace and love and then to bear much fruit … that is, to grow more deeply in faith and commitment … and to share more faithfully Jesus’ love with others.

A good gardener knows that, as plants take root and mature, sometimes they have to grab those garden shears and prune away the:

  • Dead branches and excess leaves
  • Those “sucker” tendrils that grow up between more sturdy branches and suck the life out of the plant.

Fortunately ~ God … our judicious vine caretaker … finds wonderful ways to trim the excess baggage and dead things from our lives ~ so that He can fill us with His inspiration, when new ideas pop into our minds … as well as to open us to those God-incidence moments … when we can realize that what WAS can be honored and when, as a body, we can experience and celebrate the new avenues of life and ministry opening up before us.

And, that can terrify us, for a moment.  Yet, it can also tantalize us into believing that, we can, together, bear good fruit and that we can grow deeper in faith and radiate the power of Jesus’ presence in us … because of one important certainty in our lives.

Jesus also invites us to ABIDE in His love ~

  • Jesus grounded Himself in His Father’s love and was filled to overflowing
  • Jesus’ love now overflows in an unending stream into our lives

Quite simply, Jesus’ love pours freely into our hearts and livesANDleeps coming … no matter what we do, we can’t stop it!

AND, just when we think thatALLthat love will overflow our container … that is, our heart and body … we find that there is only one place that all that love can go … OUT TO OTHERS!!!

You see:  ABIDING with Jesus isn’t confined to one particular place or building or moment in time.  (VISUAL IMAGE:  a lemonade dispenser)

Take a look at this large dispenser filled with cold water and sliced lemons.

  • Looks yummy
  • mouth waters
  • you can taste it just by looking at it

HOWEVER:  UNLESS you open the valve on the front of the dispenser, it will just remain a beautiful image.

SAME THING with us as church.  Here atSt.   Paul’s … we have a beautiful exterior, with a magnificent tower and prayer garden.  And our visitors rave about how gorgeous this sanctuary is and how good it makes them feel

BUT, I believe we need to remember that the church is NOT the building or steeple … church is the people!  AND, unless we open our front doors and move out into the world … taking Christ’s love and abiding presence with us to our neighbors and community … UNLESS we put the Word of God that has fed our souls into action…

  • WE REMAIN JUST A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING COVERING A BEAUTIFUL SANCTUARY … which is only a small part of what God is calling us to BE and DO as church.

Jesus invitation to ABIDE in Him means that we NEVER need to FEAR that we might pour out so much of our love and faith and talents that we will be left empty.

You see:  just as I can fill this dispenser with more liquid and fruit garnish … Jesus will also continue to invite us to abide IN Him … to replenish our hearts and faith with His grace and love … so we can open the valve widely and share freely with others.  And, when we are running on empty ~ we can stop and abide in Jesus again … and be refueled … to go and share …AND…WELL, you see where I am going.

Jesus told His discip0les: “This is my command: Love one another the way I have loved you.  This is the very best way to love.  Remember the root command: Love one another.”  My friends, may we have the courage to open wide the valve on our hearts and lavishly share that love wherever we go. Amen.

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