Abiding in Christ and Bearing Fruit
“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” (John 15:5).
Some weeks ago I learned that the youth would be using John 15:1-17 for their passage for Youth Sunday. It’s one of my favorite passages. There is a lot that has been and could be said about it, but I will make only a few reflections.
It’s important to remember that Jesus is giving his last words to his disciples. He wants to help them understand how they will need to live and minister after he is ascended. The key will be abiding or remaining connected to Jesus as the vine. Jesus is at the center of this passage as it makes clear that he is the source of life. The fruit of love, joy, and peace that represent the abundant life has already been made possible by Jesus and been given to those who believe in him.
Believing is the central theme in John’s Gospel and the primary reason the gospel he wrote it (John 20:31). This is more than intellectual assent. This is faith, trust, total reliance on Jesus and who he is (the one whom God has sent, the Messiah, the Son of God) and his work (life, death, and resurrection) in doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. There is no life apart from faith in him. And anything in us that hampers that faith, commitment, and reliance on Jesus will be cut off. That may seem harsh to us, but if what you want is fruit, pruning is a necessary part of cultivating growth. We are to understand unequivocally that “Apart from him we can do nothing.”
What is the fruit that Jesus speaks of in this passage? As we remain connected to Jesus, his life and love will flow in and through us. We will be healthy and holy people who are becoming more and more like Jesus. And as such, we will be able to do what needs to be done in the moment—speak the truth in love, care for those in need, provide help for the poor, share the good news. Bearing fruit is a natural result of a healthy plant, and it’s what happens in the lives of those who truly put their faith and trust in Jesus.
How does it happen? Today is Pentecost—the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to not leave his first disciples or any of us orphaned. He said he that he would send another who would be with them (and us) forever. The Holy Spirit is the gift of Pentecost. When we believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. As we live by faith in Jesus and rely on the power of the Spirit, our lives are more and more reflective of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
While this work is accomplished by the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the power of the Spirit working within us, it is clear in John 15:7-10 that there are things we can do. First, we can pay attention to the word of God. This summer’s sermon series is on Psalms for Every Season. We hope each person will use this summer to abide in Christ and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Colossians 3:16). The devotions will guide us in reading, memorizing, and meditating on a psalm each day. )Click Summer 2020 Devotions to sign up to receive written daily devotions in your inbox or to print them.) You can also join the pastors and others for daily word and prayer, which will be posted on Facebook Monday through Friday at noon.
Second, we need to pray. Today begins 100 days of prayer. The world is in an unusual season as we deal with the reality of COVID-19. And our church is in a time of amazing transition as we discern how God is leading us as we adapt to new means of ministry in this online world. In addition, we are preparing for Pastor Pete’s retirement and the beginning of a new leader’s ministry. Prayer is an important practice that expresses our dependence on God. We let go, look to God, ask for his help, and wait for him to give us the wisdom and guidance only he can give. We need to do this in all the circumstances of our lives both individually and together, but we need it more now than ever.
Again, the Summer 2020 Devotions will give direction for discerning what you can pray for yourself and your family, and we plan to give updates on how you can pray for our church each week. We invite all of you to join us weekly on Wednesdays from 12:15-12:45 p.m. for a Zoom prayer meeting. We will begin with a short scripture and then simply pray for the church and the world. Here is the Zoom link for the meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88315549996.
Finally, we are called to obey Jesus’ commands to love. God’s love and grace bind us to him and to one another in the body of Christ. As our youth shared and sung this morning, we are one body in Christ filled and empowered by the Spirit.That is why he commanded us to “love one another as he has loved us.” Our love of neighbor is our greatest witness in the world. We are called to share the good news in word and deed as we proclaim with our mouths what God has done in our lives and also meet real human need.
Our mission page is filled with ideas on how we can tangibly obey Jesus’ commands during this time. Sue Hamblen with others has come up with a means of reaching out to our neighbors to ask how we might help or support them and also invite them to join us for worship. An invitation can be printed at home or picked up at church (on the parking lot side of the narthex next to the door to the VPC preschool entrance). This is also a wonderful time to invite others to join us online for the many ways we can connect with each other.
Today is Pentecost—a wonderful day to remember whose we are and who we are. And it marks the beginning of our church’s summer season. My hope and prayer is that it will be a rich time of growth in our lives as we abide in Christ and allow the Spirit to bear his fruit in our lives and use us to reach more people with the good news of Jesus.
Grace and peace,