Opening Prayer (based on John 15:1-8)
God of love, plant us in the soil of your grace. Nurture us with the strength of Christ, the vine of everlasting life. Enlighten us with the wisdom of your Spirit, which flows through us today and all days.
Abide in us, that we may abide in you and live in your love.
In your holy name, we pray. Amen.
— Revised from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2012, © 2011 Abingdon Press.
“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” performed by Alan Jackson
Call to Worship based on Psalm 25
We lift up our souls to you, Holy God.
We trust the Lord with our past, present, and future.
Teach us, Lord, that we may know your ways.
Guide our every move, Holy One,
that we may walk in your paths of love and mercy.
Let us worship the One who leads us in what is right.
Together, let us worship God!
O Lord, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, and strength to follow on the path you set before us; through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Gospel Lesson John 15:1-8 (NIV)
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“The Old Rugged Cross” performed by George Jones
Let’s pray. Gracious, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love today, and strength to follow on the path you set before us this week; through Jesus Christ, Amen.
4th century church father, Saint Basil said, “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” In John 15:5, our Savior Jesus promises, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Here in the Gospel of John, Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. He is telling them over and over again that he is soon going away. And he is preparing them for the time when he won’t be with them in the same physical sense that they have always known.
He will, however, still be with them through the Living Presence of the Holy Spirit.
And He says that Holy Spirit will live with them, and will be in them. In John 14:8 Jesus say, “I will not leave you as orphans.” And Jesus tells His disciples in John 14:18, “I will come to you. Before long,” he says, “the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day, you will realize that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
In our Scripture passage for this today, Jesus continues to prepare the disciples for the time when He is no longer with them physically. He knows the trials they will face in the days and years ahead. So, Jesus invites them (and us) to enter into a more profound relationship with Him by urging us to live in Him, make our home in Him.
And instead of wringing His hands in despair, Jesus speaks a word of hope and trust to them. He tells them to stay close to Him no matter what life throws their way. He says, “I am the Vine, you are the branches……Live in me. Make your home in me…….. just as I do in you.”
For most of us, we don’t have to look too far to find every day examples that help deepen our understanding of what Jesus is getting at when He compares Himself to a Vine and you and me to the branches. It almost goes without saying that once a branch is cut off from its life source, it is simply not going to live long, not to mention being at the end of its fruit bearing potential. The story is told of a farmer in a rural congregation in South Carolina who once planted several acres of watermelons that he had presold to a grocery store chain in New York City. When the truck got there for the watermelons, though, there was a misunderstanding over who was supposed to harvest the crop. The deal fell through, the truck left empty, and the farmer gave all the watermelons to a local church youth group to sell at a roadside market for missions. The young people and their parents put on boots and gloves and went out into the fields in search of the melons.
They soon saw that some of the branches had separated from the vine, had turned brown, and had no fruit worth finding. But the green, living branches were still connected to the vine and had tasty watermelons under their leaves.
This is a perfect, real life example of what Jesus is saying when he uses the metaphor of a vine connected to a branch, and branches that bear good fruit. What Jesus is emphasizing here is that if we live a faithful life connected to jesus we will also live a fruitful and productive life for him.
And the connection He is talking about isn’t temporary or shallow. It is abiding, enduring and deep. It is learning to live lives more and more and more rooted in Jesus. It is living in Christ in the same way that Christ lives in us, becoming stronger and stronger day after day, year after year……producing more and more high-quality fruit along the way.
So, let’s ask ourselves this morning:
- “Are we connected to Christ?”
- “Are we rooted in Jesus?”
- “Where do we get our nutrients for living?”
- “Are we bearing fruit for the Kingdom?”
- “Are we making our home in Jesus?”
We have to ask ourselves the hard questions:
- What do you spend your time doing?
- What things do you give your life to?
- What words come out of your mouth?
- What are the topics of your conversations?
- Do you spew anger, jealousy, control?
- Or do you speak words of encouragement and love?
All this takes work because we are constantly living in, taking residence in, fixing ourselves permanently to many things in our world. And we kid ourselves if we think that those things are not affecting us, shaping us, transforming us.
The proof of what is shaping us is all around us. That which we value, what we spend our time doing, the activities that we engage in, our attitudes, whether or not we are putting what we claim to believe into action, whether we are becoming more loving, more kind, gentler, more patient, more like Jesus OR more like something else (something that reflects worldly values, beliefs, and behaviors) all point to the things that captivate our hearts.
We are indeed what we eat. What we eat spiritually determines what captivates our hearts and minds. And what we eat determines the fruit of our lives. This is a hard lesson. It takes a life-time and then some to try and get ahold of what Jesus is talking about.
In verse 9 of Chapter 15 Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.
Now remain in my love.” And a couple of verses later Jesus says: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” That’s really what it’s all about, is it not? Love. The kind of love that comes from a living, abiding, connected relationship with Jesus Christ. The kind of love which is the fruit or result of being joined to the Real Vine.
A great preacher was once asked to share about the person who influenced him the most in his life and his call to ministry. He surprised the audience when he told them the name of someone that no one knew: Miss Emma Sloan. He explained that Emma Sloan was his Sunday school teacher throughout his childhood and youth. She gave him a Bible and taught him to memorize Scripture verses, though she never explained them or interpreted them. He always told the children: “Just put it in your heart, just put it in your heart.”
The preacher shared with his audience how Miss Emma taught them a Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet, and then ended with these words: ‘I can’t think of anything, anything in all my life, that has made such a radical difference as those verses. The Spirit of God brings them to mind time and time again.”
Miss Emma Sloan was teaching this young man what it means to live in God’s Word, to live in Christ as the branch lives by being connected to the vine.
Jesus says, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you are joined with me you will bear much fruit.”
And the fruit we will bear begins inside of us and grows out into our families, our towns, wherever our lives touch the lives of others. And it’s not so much about the words we use; it’s about the love we give. We know it when we see it, don’t we?—a life connected with God.
Someone teaches us by the example their life. We know it when we live it ourselves, I think. But the thing we tend to forget is this: on our own, it is impossible for us to fend off the many, many things that threaten to interfere with our staying alive in Jesus, and staying connected to the vine.
Think for a minute about some of these things: temptations and trials, unrealistic hopes and ungrounded fears, undeserved wealth or maybe unjust poverty, talent as well as untapped potential.
Any and all of these things, and a thousand more, left on their own, can easily cut me off from the only source of life that really matters: Jesus, the Vine.
And they often do it in a way that I don’t even notice at first…until I start to realize that around the edges I am simply dying, I’m running ragged—like a branch that is separated from the vine.
Perhaps that is a description that fits your life this morning. Ragged, dry, spiritually dying. Remember Jesus’ words to us: “Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown in the bonfire. But if you make yourselves a home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”
Jesus is offering us an amazing gift. In Him, we have been handed the source of life itself. Why in the world would we allow anything to get in the way of our receiving it? All we have to do is stay attached, and all we have to do is make our home in Jesus. And not just for ourselves, but for God’s love to be made known in the lives of our families, our community and our world.
Often, when we think of connecting and growing in Christ and producing fruit we often think about Bible study and prayer and solitude.
But we forget that service is part of how we grow and produce fruit, too. It is in loving others that we reflect God’s love for us. It is in sacrificing for others that we reflect Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Make note of this verse, Philippians 2:2, and make it part of your daily prayer this week. Paul says this in Philippians 2:2, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in Spirit, intent on one purpose.” Then pray for God to show you where could be bearing fruit, or more fruit, for him. Make this part of your daily prayer this week, too. Something as simple as a card can produce good fruit because it brings joy in an unexpected way to a friend or loved one.
I’ll end with this quote from Joni Eareckson Tada, “Believers are never told to become one; we already are one, and are expected to act like it." Let’s pray.
The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Gracious God, your Word tells us, 'If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.'
Risen Lord, you came as a sacrifice for our sin. Give us faith to accept this act of love, so that we turn from all human efforts and soak in the atoning righteousness of your death and resurrection.
Lord, in your mercy... hear our prayer.
Risen Lord, you are the true vine and we are the branches. By your Spirit, produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, and patience in us for others to taste and enjoy. Keep us from hanging on to love for ourselves. Prune all selfishness from us and fill us with your love.
Christ, in your mercy... hear our prayer.
Risen Lord, have mercy on your earth and supply its needs. Where people are hungry, give food. Where people are in distress, comfort them. Where people are in trouble, bring order and peace. And turn the whole world to you in faith, repentance and praise.
Sovereign God, in your mercy... hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ, focus our love on people we know with specific needs. Heal those who are unwell, those whose names have been mentioned today, and others in need whom we now name silently in our hearts... (brief silence)
Healing God, in your mercy... hear our prayer.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for hearing us and caring for us in all our needs. Constantly intercede for us before our heavenly Father, and open our eyes that we may see him through you. We ask all this in your holy name, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
—revised from the Lutheran Church of Australia’s Worship Planning Page .
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
“When We All Get to Heaven” performed by Casting Crowns
Rom. 15:5-6 - May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We go in peace to be Christ to the world. Amen.