We Cannot Do This Alone

Yesterday’s sermon … thank you for reading!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
May 3, 2015

John 15:1-8

We Cannot Do This Alone

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.

This passage of scripture holds a special place in my heart – it was read at our wedding.

The day before Bruce and I got married, things got a little bit … chaotic.

For starters, almost every person who flew into town had some sort of flight delay and got stuck somewhere. Combine that with the poor cell phone reception at my parents’ house and up until the end of the rehearsal the night before the wedding, I literally did not know where half the bridal party or the photographer was.

Then my mom’s friends – my mom’s creative and well-intentioned, but slightly opinionated friends – had slight differences of opinion when decorating the hall for the reception. Not only did I get stuck in the middle of a debate about where the cake table should be, but Bruce and his groomsmen – who, first of all, had been volunteered by my mother to help decorate and, second of all, had been up late the night before and were not … um … feeling that great – were forced to spend three hours hanging tulle and lights while my mom’s friends ordered them around.

I am sure you can only imagine how well that went over.

Eventually the stress of the wedding itself, the flight delays, the church ladies bickering and ordering one another around and the ill-feeling groomsmen finally got to me and I snapped. Our reception was at a community hall next door to my mom’s church so I stormed out of the hall, ran into the church, slammed the door to the sanctuary and screamed, “No one is allowed to talk to me!”

I was one of those calm, cool and collected brides.

At one point my sister quietly knocked on the door and poked her head in to see how I was doing. I do not remember what, exactly, we talked about, but I do remember asking her if she could go find Bruce for me. She raised her eyebrows and asked, “Are you sure about that?” After all, he and his groomsmen were kind of on my list.

And while I knew she had a point, I also knew – in my heart – that I could not do this alone. The tulle, the lights, the flight delays, the excited family and church members and the missing members of my bridal party – I could not do it alone.

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.

As I sat next to Bruce and heard that scripture read the next day, I knew that I just learned a very valuable lesson.

We cannot do this alone.

THIS: Life, faith, church, community, family, friends, jobs, tragedies, joys, war, peace, love and conflict. We cannot do this alone.

In this morning’s reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for his departure from the world. He uses this metaphor of a vine, a metaphor often used in the Old Testament to describe Israel. Let us look at how Jesus uses it when talking about the Body of Christ:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.

God gives us growth. We cannot survive and grow and thrive if we are not connected to something that will help us grow. A grape cannot grow if it is not connected to its vine and the same is true for us – we cannot do this alone.

He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.

I realize that the pruning process does not sound like the most pleasant thing in the world to go through, but think of it this way: God nurtures us to help us grow. God pulls away the bad parts of our lives so that there is room for the good stuff to grow. Like a farmer cultivating his crops, God looks at who we are and where we are and the potential that we have within us and God helps us rise to that potential.

You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.

We are not broken. We are not tainted. We may be imperfect and we may be sinners and we may fall short from time to time, but we have been forgiven by a God who loves us and who wants us to be free from the hardships of our earthly lives. We have been forgiven by a God who is yearning for us to grow strong and thrive in his Word and by his Spirit.

Abide in me as I abide in you.

In the original Greek, the word used for “abide” was meinate, which comes from the Greek word menó and means, “to remain, to stay, to wait and to dwell.” We are called to abide in Jesus. We are called to remain, to stay, to wait and to dwell in Jesus.

And this is not a one-way street. Just as Jesus wants us to abide in him, Jesus is also promising to abide in us. Jesus dwells within us; the Gospel is infused into our spirit and so we mirror that back in to our own lives.

Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

We cannot do this alone. If a branch is disconnected from its vine, it will not produce any fruit. And if we disconnect from our faith – if we distance ourselves from God, if we do not live according to the Gospel – we will not only have a hard time surviving the hard stuff, but we will not thrive.

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.

We cannot bear fruit without the vine of Jesus connecting us not only to God, but also to one another. We are the branches: We, children of God; we, the Body of Christ; we, branches of this blessed vine that is moving through our lives and through our faith. We are the branches.

Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

I do not think that our lives were just meant to be lived. I think that God created us so that our lives would have meaning. I think that God created us so that we could (and would) make a difference in this world. I think that God created us so that we could flourish and thrive in unimaginable and immeasurable ways.

I want your lives to be changed by your faith. I do not want you to feel as though you are a branch that has been broken off from its vine and fallen to the ground. I want you to feel as though you are connected to a vine that gives you strength and lets you live and helps you to bear beautiful things.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in your, ask for whatever you wish, and if will be done for you.

God will give us what we need. If we live into the Gospel and allow the spirit of Jesus to dwell within us, God will give us what we need. Life still may give us challenges and we still may experience heartaches and challenges, but God will give us what we need.

We cannot do this alone.

THIS: The stuff we can control and the stuff that we cannot control.

THIS: Life, faith, church, community, family, friends, jobs, tragedies, joys, war, peace, love and conflict.

THIS: An earthquake in Nepal – thousands dead and even more injured and displaced.

THIS: Riots in Baltimore – cries for justice on both sides and systemic racism in our country that we cannot seem to break through.

We cannot do this alone.

We need to turn to God to help us survive in this world and we need to draw our strength from this life-giving vine that will strengthen us and help us to bear fruit.

We cannot do this alone.

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.

As a community of a faith, we are stronger together than we are separately and as individuals we are stronger when we are connected to one another and to God.

Jesus closed this passage by saying this:

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

God so desperately wants us to believe in the Gospel. God wants our lives to bear much fruit. God wants us to not just survive, but to be strong and to thrive. God wants to live into the Gospel and to be the hands and the feet and the face of Christ to the people around us.

To accept Jesus’ call to be his disciple means to live in a way that glorifies God in all that we say and all that we do.

And when we do this, we know that we will never be alone.

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.

We cannot do this alone.

But the Good News is that we do not have to.

So, dear friends, feed off of this life-giving vine. Dwell in the gospel of Jesus Christ and allow the gospel to dwell within you. Feel the strength, courage and love that you receive from others through this blessed vine. Grow in your faith and allow your faith to help you grow. Flourish and thrive and see the fruits of God’s harvest – in your life and in the world.

This is the good news that gives us new life.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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