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5/10/2009 - The Rev. Caron A. Gwynn - The Fifth Sunday of Easter

posted May 21, 2010, 6:28 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:28 PM by Terry Brady ]
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just 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. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from e you can do nothing. (John 15: 4-5, NRSV)

On Wednesday, October 11, 1994, NASA’s Magellan space explorer was put out of commission. It had surveyed the planet Venus more than 15,000 times since 1990. On this particular day, NASA scientists deliberately guided the crash of the satellite into the planet causing it to burn up in the atmosphere. This $900,000,000(nine hundred million) satellite disappeared just like that-in a split second. The scientists made this decision because the Magellan ran out of power following an experiment that drained the batteries. The satellite could no longer transmit data back to NASA. [Craig Brian Larson and Leadership Journal, 750 Engaging Illustrations for preachers, teachers, & writers (Michigan: Baker Books, 2004) p. 539] This demonstrates that even high technology is worthless without power. This experience serves as reminder to us that without the power of God even committed Christians cannot bear fruit.

Today, John’s gospel reminds us of the importance of staying connected to Jesus, God, and each other as Disciples of Christ. Otherwise, without the living stem of the vine that enables us to bear fruit, we will have no power to be productive as disciples and we could end up shriveled like a grape that has become disconnected from the vine. Allegorically, God is the vinedresser, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. All three parts are connected and related together. God, the vinedresser, provides the surging power with love through Jesus for us as the branches to grow and produce fruit for the ministry of the church.

This gospel assures us during the Easter season that the death of Jesus upon the cross is not the end of the living God we serve, but rather an open door for the new Christian ministry of those who believe and follow Jesus as his disciples. The apostles and those in the early church where charged with bearing fruit by remaining connected to the teaching of Jesus and doing the ministry of Jesus. These ministries included: lovingly caring for one another, acts of compassion, supporting each other during troubled times, caring for the widows and orphans, and sustaining the faith of the community. These ministries bonded and connected both Jews and Gentiles in the Christian communities.

The strength of the church lays in the strength of the ministries of the people- the branches. Our various ministries at St. Margaret’s have an open door for anyone who wants to walk through and connect with our faith community that is powered by the love of God. We are all very busy and have responsibilities that claim our time and energy each day. I recall a time when I felt that I was giving all that I had to give to the church. There was just was not another thing I could do because I was running out of energy and steam to do anything else.

John’s Gospel says that God prunes the branches to produce more fruit. God prunes us individually for new growth. We are called to let God do the pruning so that God’s power to bear more fruit through us takes place as promised by Jesus. I imagine that I am not the only one who has had some pruning done! I have found this to be sometimes uncomfortable. However, pruning can be a transformational experience that allows God to use us for God’s purposes.

I recall a parishioner sharing that the experience of serving as a Lay Eucharistic Visitor became an unexpected transforming and humbling experience. Our God gave all of us a variety of gifts, which we are called to share with one another for the collective good of the whole. Some of our ministries that rely on your service includes: providing transportation for our elderly, visiting our sick and shut- ins, helping at Charlie’s Place, and working with our youth. In short -stewardship of our gifts and talents. We are called to be bonded together with love and care for others within our midst and within our communities. We are called to spread like branches throughout the ministries of St. Margaret’s to serve God’s purpose and the mission of this church.

Yes, sometimes we are going to want to do our own thing and in the process, we may loose our way and become detached. There was a man who dropped out of church. He figured that he could just as well worship God on his own. A few weeks went by and the minister went to visit him. They sat in the living room by the fireplace and made small talk. Then the minister took the tongs, picked up a glowing ember, and placed it on the side of the fireplace. The two men watched without saying a word. In no time, the ember began to cool. A few minutes later, the minister picked up the dead ember with his fingers and pitched it back into the fire. Immediately, it came back to life. Without a word, the minister put on his coat and started to leave. The man walked him to the door and said, “That was one of your best sermons. I’ll see you in church this Sunday.” (copied and adapted from a sermon entitled, The Vines and The Branches by Dr. Philip W. McLarty, http://lectionary.org/Sermons/McLarty/John/John%2015.01-8,%20VineBranches.htm)

Our strength and power lie in the connection of our relationships to and with each other as a community of faith and as a connecting link in the body of Christ in the world. It is in this way that we are called to live our lives faithfully as disciples of Christ.

Jesus speaks to us (on this Mother’s Day) to remind us that we are called to stay attached to Christ by abiding in him. Abiding means to remain or stay in relationship with Jesus for the fruitfulness of our love in the kingdom. “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just 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. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15: 4-5, NRSV)

The vine biblical image conveys to us a strong sense of the connectedness in our lives. We are called to remember that there is only one supreme power source. I am not referring to the internet VIOS, but to the blessed One, who always lovingly guides, protects, and prunes us - thereby enabling us to lead faithful and productive lives in this world.

In closing, we are reminded that we are connected to Jesus in a similar fashion as to that of our mothers or to the women who have nurtured us throughout our lives and to that end - I wish all women in this role a Happy Mother’s Day!

Let us pray: Oh God send us forth to abide in your love. For it is in this love that we are known and it is this love that we help to transform and renew the earth. Oh, God send us forth abiding with you with love. For it is this love that hope is known and it is in this love that we help to renew and transform all life. May we blossom in Christ’s love and live firmly in Christ’s resurrection promise. [copied and adapted from a blessing found in Homiletics, May 2006, p. 25) AMEN.