"Branch, Vine & Vinedresser" / Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Season Of Easter / April 29th 2018 - / John 15:1-8
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 29th 2018: Season of Easter / John 15:1-8 “Branch, Vine & Vinedresser”
“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. The winter seems to be over; people are starting to get into their yards. For many people there is lot of clean up they need to do to start to get things in to shape. Through the spring and summer and fall there is work that needs to be done on the trees here in Regina too and I still remember how odd it was to hear that every tree here in the city was planted by someone. That there’s not one tree that naturally grew here without a human hand planting it. If you’d been here back before the city was founded you’d have seen nothin’, not one tree anywhere. Every tree you see here was planted or was the result of people planting trees here.
One kind of tree that you’ll see around the city, and some of you may have this kind of tree on your property, or may have in the past, is the Elm trees. Some of these Elm trees are very large now and require attention. Twice a year many people or workers from the city, if the trees are on city property, will band them and spread sticky tanglefoot on the bands to protect the trees from worms. Sometimes an arborist is needed to trim the trees to keep them healthy yet even a healthy Elm tree may lose branches in the wind and the wind is something we have in great supply in Saskatchewan.
Yes when the wind blows the weak branches snap off in the wind and fall to the grass below. And when they are snapped off of the tree the branches are in trouble, they are dead for sure. They will no longer be filled with a stream of life giving sap and they will no longer be able to grow leaf or flower or seed, they are dead. When this happens there is nothing left for to do but gather them up and throw them away! If we were outside the city they would likely be kept for some future bonfire. Yet the big Elm trees that line the streets of many of the older neighbourhoods in town, that pop up in so many back yards, are still there growing even without the broken branches.
Last week Jesus spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd and we as the sheep, this week Jesus says “I am the vine; you are the branches.” So last week: Good Shepherd and sheep, and this week: Vine and branches. The question that leaps to mind is “What kind of branch am I?” the question that leaps a little slower to mind is “What Kind of Vine is Jesus?”
Let’s start with the fist question: “What kind of branch am I?” Am I the sort of branch that’s in danger of being blown off the big Elm Tree by the winds of life? Am I the sorts of branch in danger of having the Vinedresser take me away to be tossed into the fire, and burned because I don’t bear fruit? Or am I the sort that does bear fruit yet the Vinedresser prunes me so that I may bear more fruit?
If I’m a branch knocked off from the Vine, if I’m the sort of branch separated from the Vine what hope is there for me? If I’m the sort who is pruned, what does that look like in my life? What does it mean to be a branch on Jesus the Vine anyway?
The Christian life involves more pruning than we’d like; Job of the Old Testament, with all his troubles asks his wife, who wishes him to curse God for his misfortunes, this question: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” There are things which happen in our lives, as Christians, that look very evil when we first receive them but in time we see that it was the pruning hook of the Vinedresser all along, and that God your Father was involved in fulfilling what St. Paul says “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” A question to ask yourself in the midst of your trouble is, am I being pruned by the Vinedresser or is this truly evil, an assailing of Satan, an attack from the world, or from sin, or from death or have I managed to get myself into this situation all on my own? For example cancer is by-product of mankind’s fall into sin, but you will not have it unless God the Father allows it to happen. The follow up question might be why? Why does He let it happen? Why should that be my pruning hook in life? Earlier in John’s Gospel “as [Jesus] passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And [Jesus’] disciples asked Him, “[Teacher], who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (The works of God in him were his eyes healed by Jesus) From today’s Gospel Jesus’ answer is this: “every branch that does bear fruit [the Father] prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Our faith in the face of adversity can bear much fruit, by the pruning hook of the Father we most certainly can blossom in our faith and produce much fruit.
Not all the pruning you receive from the Father is unpleasant, the pruning hook of the Vinedresser also brings challenges in life, times when you are given the chance to step up to the plate: the birth of a child, the caring of the sick and dying, the first day at a new job, the big move, all those times when you think ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do that” and then somehow you do it ... in these times you likewise bear fruit. In Christ you bear fruit in all circumstances.
What is this fruit? St. Paul tells us of the fruits of the Spirit which we in Christ bear, these are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” he goes on to say that, “against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Echoing what Jesus says in today’s reading, Jesus says, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
It is a funny thing, in life, as we Christians go about being a branch on the Vine, our adversaries in this life; the world, the devil, sin, death, and even our own foolishness and stubbornness provide us with ample opportunity to bear good fruit. How can this be? When the World entices us to hate and make war, in Christ we are asked to love and make peace; when the devil tempts us to act in haste, in Christ we are asked to be patient; when sin attempts to make us cruel, in Christ we are asked to be kind and gentle; when death beckons us to lay down in sadness, in Christ we are asked to hold fast to joy; when our own foolishness and stubbornness draw us into evil and recklessness, in Christ we are asked to embrace what is good and keep self-control.
But you say, “There are times when I hate, times when I’m cruel and hasty, when I show no self-control or goodness. I’m not sure if I bear any good fruit at all?” In fact I punch and kick and scream and cry but what does it get me? Nothing. Jesus says, “Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (There’s the truth of it) Here we start to see both what kind of branch we are and what kind of Vine Jesus is.
Without the Vine we branched would produce no fruit at all, apart from the Vine we surely will produce nothing, as a branch apart you would have no power whatsoever. Jesus is the source of every good work that you would do, the good you do is not simply a gift you give to Jesus, it is a gift Jesus is working through you for your neighbour, for the world.
We live in a world where many Christians have embraced a single understanding of Jesus. They focus on Jesus in them, Jesus in their heart. Like they are a coleman lamp and Jesus is the flame. In baptism we say these words from Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel to the one being baptized, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Paul prays for the Ephesians Christians asking “That [God] would grant [them], according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner being; That Christ may dwell in [their] hearts by faith; that [they], being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [it] is ... to know the love of Christ, which surpasses all understanding, that [they] might be filled with the fullness of God.” This is all true and is all good – but if one was to focus only on Jesus in them they would miss what it means for them to be in Jesus. You are now a part of Him, you are in His heart. The Christian need both these teachings don’t neglect that You as a Baptized Christian are now a part of Jesus and that you are in His heart now.
You are the branch, Jesus is the Vine; as the branch on the vine you are “filled with the fullness of God.” In baptism you are baptized into Jesus. Jesus, who having destroyed death upon the cross is now the fountain of life; the Vine pours life into you, the branch, each day. He does this in your baptism daily, He does this for you when you read His word in Holy Scripture, He does this for you when you hear the word of God preached to you, He does this for you when you sing those words back to Him in worship, He does this for you when He feeds you in His Supper with His Body and Blood (in with and under the bread and the wine). As a Christian if you refuse to come to the supper, if you avoid worship, if you despise the preaching of the Gospel, if you stop reading the Bible, if you deny your baptism, you will be like one who is starving who pushes away his plate of home cooked food. Jesus is the Vine that feeds the branch, apart from the Vine the branch will have no strength to bear fruit! Jesus says, “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.” This is the kind of Vine that Jesus is.
If I’m a branch knocked off from the Vine, if I’m the sort of branch separated from the Vine what hope is there for me? This may be you; it may be someone you love. When a branch is knocked off an Elm Tree, are you able to reattach it to the tree? Do you have this skill? I know one who is able. Our heavenly Father is able to do this. He can reattach you to the Vine. Have you been gathered into this place this day for this purpose? Is there one you wish to pick up and bring here to this place for this very purpose? Here the Word of God is read and preached and the Sacraments are administered and in this place the dead branches will be grafted back in, they will have opportunity to believe in the One Who lived and died and lives again for them, Christ Jesus. Such belief is also a gift from God. The branch will be brought to the source of life, Jesus, and be reattached to the Vine, and “if they do not continue in their unbelief,” St. Paul in Romans Chapter 11 says, “[they] will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.” Here is your perpetual, continual hope; Jesus says “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Do you ask this day to be grafted back into the Vine? Or do you ask this for someone you love?) Remember, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.” Ask and you shall receive, here you have a home, here in Christ Jesus you will be fed and given strength, here you will be forgiven, here (and in your whole life) you will bear much fruit as a branch on the Vine. Jesus says, “I Am The True Vine, and My Father is The Vinedresser.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy, Lord Have Mercy, “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.
 Job 2:10
 Romans 8:28
 John 9:1-3
 Galatians 5:22-24
 Coleman Lantern
 Matthew 5:16
 Ephesians 3:16-19
 Romans 11:23
 Matthew 7:7