Abide With Me / John 15:1-8 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 2nd 2021 / Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Sermon Sunday May 2nd Season of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / John 15:1-8 / Abide With Me
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. There are moments that stick with you, days that linger on in the mind, things you hear that you return to over and over again, times that can even inspire you that the Holy Spirit puts before you in your devotional life and in your prayers. Earlier in his life as a parish pastor the Anglican Vicar Henry Francis Lyte was at the deathbed of a fellow priest who repeatedly said as he was dying, “Abide with me,” “Abide with me,” “Abide with me,” this repeated prayer to Jesus drawn from our Gospel reading today stuck with Rev. Lyte and for over 20 years they would weave in and out of his mind and he would reflect on them in devotional writing and verses of poetry.
Perhaps you've heard of people with osteoarthritis, asthma, severe allergies or other health problems moving to places like Arizona for a better climate - a climate that will improve their health. It is said that wet, damp, and generally cold climates with big fluxuations in temperature and humidity are no good for these kinds of illnesses.
Our Rev. Lyte was the pastor of All Saint’s Anglican Church for 25 years in the small cold, damp, and wet fishing village of Lower Brixham in Devonshire England and as he aged he developed a lung condition that had deteriorated into tuberculosis, and while it isn't Arizona, Lyte planned a therapeutic holiday to the warmer and more dry and sunny Italy with the hopes that the climate there would improve or at least alleviate the symptoms of his poor health.
In his last sermon before heading to Italy he said, "I must put everything in order before I leave, because I have no idea how long I'll be away." It was September and he knew he couldn't weather another cold damp British winter. In 1847 there was not much that could be done for tuberculosis except for a change of climate. While he prepared for his trip and while he was traveling he continued to work on a poem, a poem that had started to become a hymn, one that you know, "Abide With Me." He posted an updated version of hymn in a letter to his family while he had briefly stopped in Avignon France. He never made it all the way to Italy, Henry died there in Nice which at that time was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, where he was buried. His last words were, "Peace! Joy!" The fishermen of Brixham asked for a Service of remembrance to be held at All Saint’s Anglican Church where "Abide With Me," was sung for the first time for the wider public, a version of it was sung at his last Service there before he’d headed for Italy.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
They had finished Supper, Jesus had lifted up the cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” In Mark's Gospel, Mark records how Jesus followed up the words of institution saying "Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” That same night, less than twenty four hours before His crucifixion, John records that Jesus said to His disciples, "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 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."
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's pow'r?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
In John's Gospel Jesus says of Himself, "I am the bread of life," "I am the Light of the world" "Before Abraham was, I am," "I am the Door," "I am the Good Shepherd," "I am the Resurrection and the Life," "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life," "I am the True Vine."
On the Cross: Jesus the bread of Life, the Light of the World, the God of Abraham's praise, the Doorway of Salvation, the Good Shepherd of the sheep, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the True Vine, hung dead and Rev. Lyte with his tuberculosis, and you with your troubles and me with mine hung there with Him because in Baptism we abide in Jesus and He abides in us. Through the cloud of the cross and sunshine of His glorious Easter morning resurrection we trust that Jesus abide with us and we with Him. This is what it means to abide. We are not separated from one another not in life not in death, in Jesus we are one: One in Him. Yet Jesus warns us when He says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.
What is this fruit that Jesus talks about? How is it produced? Today's text is about the Vine, The Vine's branches and its fruit, the grapes. In the Gospel of Saint Luke Jesus also "told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And [the vinedresser] answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Earlier in the gospel of Luke Jesus said, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."
Jesus is no bramble bush, the grapes that are plucked from your heart are not evil, in Christ they are good. But you worry, 'when I take a good long honest look at my heart, my heart is nothing but bramble, it's infested with thorns, what sort of grapes can be expected there? I feel like a withered up branch knocked off (torn off) the vine by the winds of life, each little grape of fruit, as it grows, seems to be plucked off and gobbled down by the black crows of the devil before they grow to maturity. When I sin I immediately hear the footsteps of the Vinedresser in the vineyard and I fear his axe, His saw. I am afraid that I'm going to be taken away.' What did Saint John said last week on in our Epistle reading? By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit John says, "Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything." Let's make that a little more specific, as a Christian you are part of "us" when John says "us" so, 'whenever your heart condemns you, remember God is greater than your heart, and He knows everything.' Psalm 85 teaches us that the LORD your God is, "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness."
In your sin you hear Him come with the axe, with the saw; yet when you repent of your sin and turn to Him, God, the Vinedresser, arrives with the pruning shears and for the love of His Son Jesus He has not brought His axe or His saw. He comes to correct and help you bear fruit He doesn't come to remove you, He comes with grace, with undeserved love and kindness. He will forgive you, turn to Him, return to Him, ask and you shall receive it. God is patient with you, and His patience is perfect, even if our patience is not. Likewise remember what Jesus says today in the Gospel when He says, to His disciples, the very men who will bolt like spooked horses afraid for their lives running off in every direction away from Him in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus is being arrested: He says to them, "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you." Are they clean because they have washed themselves? Because they have straightened up and flown right? Because they have pruned their own branch? No they are clean because of Jesus, and what He spoke to them in Holy Communion that night, what He gave them in that meal.
You have heard these words of Jesus, you will hear them again in Holy Communion this day, and in Holy Communion you are washed clean in the shed blood of Jesus ... ah but you say ... I'm still waiting to have Communion? Dear Christian take heart, you are not left out in the damp cold, you too have words from the lips of Jesus that have come to your ears, a word that the Holy Spirit has planted in your heart, and for some of you, you first heard these words as infants. In fact for many of you they were some of the very first words from Jesus you would have heard, even if you don't recall hearing them the way you recall your last conversation with your mother or father. This is the word, "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We start each Divine Service with these words, these words spoken to you in your baptism, words which have applied to you the fulfilled promises of God in Christ, a word from Jesus that has washed you clean. The pastor says them in the stead and by the command of Jesus and by them you are made a branch on the Vine just as the Ethiopian Eunuch was when Philip explained God's Word to him and baptized him. Abiding in Christ Jesus means being physically connected to Him, a branch is not spiritually connected to the Vine. A branch is not intellectually connected to the Vine. After His resurrection Jesus says to the disciples, and to you, "behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Your connection to Jesus and His connection to you is more than spirit, more than thought. In His Word, in His Supper, in His Baptism you abide in Jesus and Jesus abides in you. By His word and Sacraments Jesus washes the bramble and thorns out of your heart, He bats away the black crows of the devil and presents your fruit as good and holy to the Vinedresser. Fear not Christ is with you.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Many of you know this hymn "Abide With Me," from funerals and it is true that when life's little day ebbs swiftly to a close we Christians take comfort in our Lord Jesus who is the same yesterday, and today and forever. We take comfort in the fact that we abide in Him and that He abides with us. This hymn was a favourite of King George the V the Queen’s grandfather and was sung at his funeral. In our lives we face many days where Death doesn't loom a great deal and in those days too it is also good to remember that as Christian we abide in Jesus and He abides in us. Interestingly before she became Queen Elisabeth and Prince Philip had this hymn at their wedding Service, it was the first hymn sung that day. So whether it is a day of joy like a wedding or a day of sorrow like a funeral and for all the days in between give thanks when the Holy Spirit in life and in death sets Jesus and His cross and passion before your eyes. In the midst of earth's vain shadows it is Jesus, who says, "I am the Light," Who shines through the dim gloom and decay of the world, it is His light that abides with you, it is His life giving nutrients passing from Vine to branch that gives you eternal life and makes fruit grow amidst your daily struggles.
Dear ones avoid all things that would keep you from the Vine, all things that would keep you from Jesus. Remember this place where you are feed with Jesus' word and where your Baptism is honoured and remembered, where you will always receive encouragement in your faith from Jesus and where He comes to you with that physical connection, feeding you in the meal and with His word. If you are looking for a spot where you are connected to the Vine, connected to Jesus - look no further than Word and Sacrament ministry and the place where it happens. Where else will you find it? Where else does it come to you in its fullness, where else do you receive it all for the strengthening of your faith unto life everlasting?
When writing the hymn “Abide With Me,” that we have looked at today Rev. Lyte’s deathbed visitations in his early days as a perish pastor certainly influenced him as did his poor health and suffering in his later years however the beauty of this familiar hymn doesn’t really come from the stories of its origins but rather from the words he has written and ultimately from the Scripture that they references. The Scripture that promises you that Jesus provides for the strengthening of your faith and the continuation of it as you abide in Him and He abides in you. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 1 Corinthians 11:25
 Mark 14:25
 John 8:12, 9:5
 John 8:12, 9:5
 John 8: 58
 John 10:9
 John 10:11
 John 11:25
 John 14:6
 John 15:1
 Romans 6:5-11
 Luke 13:6-9
 Luke 6:43-45
 1 John 3:20
 Psalm 86:15
 Matthew 28:20
 Companion to the Hymns, Volume 1, Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2019, Pg 1372.
Photo credits: Main Photo Vine and Grapes from pexels; Harbour at Lower Brixham in Devonshire England from pixabay; Coast Brixham in Devonshire England from pixabay; Communion Cup from unsplash; Vinyard from pexels; Detail Grapes on the Vine from pexels; Detail Grapes in a Basket from pexels; Figs on Fig Tree from pexels; Vinyard Closer View from pexels; Detail Pruning Shears from pexels; Hand in Water from pexels; King George V Funeral from royalwatcherblog.com; Wedding of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip published in Vanity Fair read article about the wedding using this photo here; Jesus giving Holy Communion from pexels.