“Abide with Me”

“Abide with Me” – John 15:1-8
The Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)  4/29/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

Just when you think you pretty well know and understand something, you realize “O my goodness, there is more here than meets the eye… more here than what I first thought… much more, in fact!”

And if this is true in a worldly sense, it is infinitely more so in a spiritual one. Today’s Gospel text is a perfect example. You know it well, but maybe not all that well.

On the surface, it is easy to understand… the concept of our Lord Jesus Christ being the one true Vine and we the branches. But what we may miss is that there are certainly others out there… vines that is… to which people can and do attach themselves to… seeking to draw spiritual nourishment and strength… having no idea that the connection is anything but good and wholesome, but rather toxic and deadly.

False vines which the majority of mankind unknowingly and many times uncaringly connect to for a wide variety of reasons… to fill a wide variety of needs. Vines which eventually give way, give out… dry up and dry out. Vines that rot and die out… along with any branches attached to them. And what makes this so sad… so tragic… is that we are talking not about branches, but people… precious souls.

There are many vines… but one true Vine which truly provides spiritual and physical nourishment. One true Vine from which life flows and flourishes… is sustained, strengthened, protected and maintained.

What also may be missed here is that unlike all of the other vines… that is, all of the other faiths, religions and gods which one can connect to, cling to… connection to the one true Vine… one’s connection to Jesus Christ… is not of our doing. It is not of anyone’s doing. It is all Christ’s doing.

My friends, let us never forget that we were all, at one time, withering branches and would have remained so, eventually dying eternally, had not Christ connected us to Himself… if  His Holy Spirit had not worked mercifully and mightily to graft us into Christ… graft us into the Body of Christ, the Christian Church, through Holy Baptism.

Looking at our text, it is also quite easy, on the surface, to understand the work of the Father as the vinedresser. But what we may not fully appreciate is the constant attention and care which all of the branches of a vine need. Left unattended, they will grow wild and prove to be useless and unproductive.

Productive branches… fruitful branches… are pruned branches. They are… at times… cut back… and this purposefully… so that what grows back is far sturdier, healthier and productive.

What we as Christians, connected to Christ the true vine, may not always understand or appreciate… may not like and may even take issue with at times… is the pruning back… the divine discipling and reproving… all done to help us… all done for our good.

The Godly pruning where that which is spiritually unhealthy is removed and discarded… where we are set back, put back in our place and this, all for the purpose of getting us back on track… back on course… keeping us on course… not ours… not the world’s… but the Lord’s good and perfect path, righteous path set before us…

… that which allows us to truly produce good fruit all of the days of our lives here on earth… the course which eventually leads to heaven and to our eternal home.

Never forget… the Vinedresser… our Heavenly Father… does everything out of love for us… we… His precious branches connected to His precious Son, Christ Jesus.

We read in Holy Scripture, Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.” (Deuteronomy 8:5)

In the Book of Proverbs we are told, “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father, the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)

Also, something which many people may not choose to see or consider in this text is that the Vinedresser will take away any and all branches which do not bear fruit. Branches which appear to be connected to the Vine… to Jesus. They are in and amongst those that are… but they themselves are not. They may look the part. They appear to abide in Jesus, but do not.

And they are known by their “fruit” … the lack of good fruit… the absence of the same… true fruit which is nothing more than true faith in action. It is the “fruit of faith” found… ever present in true believers… in true Christian men, women and children and this, because they are connected to the true Vine… to Jesus.

The absence of such fruit is none other than the absence of true love for the Lord… true love for His Word… true love for His Church.

It is the absence of love, genuine love, caring and concern for others, all others. Love that is expressed not only in words, because talk can be cheap… but love in action

Finally, accompanying the absences of the fruit of faith is the absence of trust and confidence. The absence of true peace and contentment.

My friends, a great tragedy that is played out again and again in every Christian congregation, and this one is no exception, is having men and women whose connection to Christ the true vine is either non-existent or incredibly tenuous and fragile… not that it is of the Lord’s doing, but theirs. These dear people live under the false assumption… the spiritual delusion that everything is ok… that they are ok… and this, in their relationship with the Lord their God… this, in regard to their eternal life. How is it with you? How connected are you to Christ… to His Word… to this, His Body? Here, where you are spiritually fed and led… here, where faith grows and bears abundant fruit to be shared out there in the world, all to the glory of God.

Dearly beloved, here your Savior say to you, “Abide in me and I in you and know true peace regardless of your time in this world… regardless of your situation… what is or what is not… that which will be or never be.  It is Ok. You are with me and I with you… each and every day. You are mine. Through it all, I will nourish and provide for you… protect you… and bring you to your heavenly home.”

Such love! Such is our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!