Monday, February 29, 2016

"Abiding to Bear Fruit" by Megan LeCluyse

Sermon given February 24, 2016
Scripture: John 15:1-17

This passages is normally separated into two chunks, one being verses 1-8, the other being 9-17. In some ways, this makes sense, because there is a ton of stuff here, and there is absolutely no way to touch on it all, even if we only were to look at half. So just so you know, we aren’t going to talk about the branches that get removed, but there is a lot we can discuss there later if you want. It involves digging into some horticultural learning about vines and what it means to tend vines. Good stuff actually, and yes, it is a vine the passage talks about, like what grapes grow on, and not a tree, which is what I tend to picture in my head. And while will talk about what it means to love one another, we’re also not going to dig into Jesus saying, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend.” But, it is important to know that this whole speech happens while they are gathered for the Last Supper. We’re reading in John, so two chapters earlier, at this same meal, Jesus had washed the disciples feet, which was normally a servant’s task. Jesus has shown his disciples and friends that he loves them. There is so much here, and it is so rich, we could go in any number of directions. But what we are going to focus on, and why we read this whole passage, is what does it mean to abide in Jesus, and how this is absolutely necessary if we are going to be able to bear good fruit and truly love one another.

Jesus makes it clear that we are meant to abide in him, and there is no way around that this means making time for Jesus and God in our lives. Jesus doesn’t specify what this looks like, but that it is critical to our ability to bear good fruit. Using the vine metaphor Jesus uses hear, in order to produce fruit, the branches literally have to be connected to the vine, or they die. And this will probably look like a whole bunch of different things for each of us, from prayer, to worship, to serving, to retreating from normal life to be with God, it can and does look like a lot of things, and part of that is because abiding in God provides us with many different things. We abide in Christ to find rest, which was part of what we talked about at our retreat this past weekend. We looked at Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus says, 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” When we abide in Jesus, we are given rest, a chance to trade in a heavy yoke for one that is light and easy. But we also abide in Jesus because in doing so, we are challenged, challenged to live into who God wants for us to be, challenged to not be complacent about the injustices of the world, challenged to live life as a disciple of Christ. When we abide in Christ, we are able to be sure of our identity as Children of God, and we have knowledge of who we truly are. Sure, we will experience seasons of doubt, and even dark nights of the soul, but even in the midst of those we can seek to abide, to rest, to dwell, to live in and with Christ. 

The passage tells us that if we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit. And this is true. When we live into the life that Jesus offers us and calls us to, we enter a space in which we can thrive, in which as Frederich Buechner said, our greatest passion meets the world’s deepest needs. Jesus also commands us to live one another. Which is, in many ways, what makes life worth living, have community, family and friends, and even strangers, who we are called to love. But we all know that while fulfilling, this also is demanding, and requires energy, patience, strength, service, a willingness to put others ahead of ourselves, or to lay down our life for a friend. That’s not always easy to do, and in fact, we can’t do it on our own. Loving one another is part of the fruit that we bear, and that we can produce only when we remain close to the vine. There’s a poem by poet Ann Weems, talks about living love, and what it really looks like.  She writes:
“Living love is a complicated, painstaking, patient path.
An all-the-time, every time, watch-where-you’re-going
    Living love means making decisions all day long to
        Living love means patience with those who don’t
        care about living love,
            Living love means watching our words
            as well as our actions,
                Living love means treating others as we
                ourselves want to be treated,
Living love means not hitting back,
    Living love means loving our enemies,
        Living love means loving those who speak all
        manner of evil against us.
And these things are just the beginning of living Love.

Living Love means forgiving, means forgetting,
    Living Love means there is no room for
        Living Love means being the people of God
a community of those who love one another
and who love all the one anothers that God created.
            Living Love means understanding those
            who hate.
Living Love means going into all the world and telling
    God’s story.”

This living love she describes isn’t going to be easy, but it is what God calls us to. And we can only do so when we abide in Jesus, who gives us the strength to do so. So may you abide in the vine, and be branches that bear good fruit. Amen.

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