Sermon St E Sunday 9.45 2 May 2021 5th Sunday of Easter Year B
Psalm 22v25-end Acts 8v26-end John 15v1-8 1 John 4v7-21
Let us pray:- May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Have you ever thought that life has been unfair or unkind to you, and then blamed God for it?
In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus was speaking to the disciples in the upper room on the occasion of the last supper and gave to them, and we should also say to us, a clear indication that we should look positively on the things that happen to us who are Christians.
Jesus, in using the analogy of the vineyard, describes God the Father as ‘the vinegrower’, showing that God looks for, and enhances, what is necessary to produce a vintage crop by tending caringly to his vines. God does that, as the keeper of the vineyard would do, by pruning his vines, by pruning us, you and me, and sometimes that pruning may seem pretty drastic if the crop is to form at its best.
The words used by Jesus can only draw a simple picture of how the owner of the vineyard, the vine grower, deeply cares. Cares to see his pruning of the vines result in an abundance of fruit, and that may mean the drastic snipping off of branches from the vine; but the branches that remain, that have not been pruned away, remain firmly attached to the ‘true vine’ itself, and in our case that is to our Lord Jesus.
And God has to prune our lives. God cares for and loves, each one of us as individuals, so much that He longs to see our lives glorify Him and bring to each one of us an abundance of blessings.
In fact Jesus gave that as one of his prime reasons for coming to tabernacle, to dwell, among us. A little earlier in John’s gospel (10v10), when Jesus was describing how he was the ‘door of the sheep’, how he was the ‘good shepherd’, Jesus tells us that he had come so we his sheep might have life, and have that life in abundance, and have life in all its possible fulness.
Do you, do I, feel that we are experiencing a fulness and abundance of life?
For that to happen, God in His love, mercy and grace, may have to lop off a few of our branches; change a few of our habits, our thoughts, our desires, and also some of our prejudices, just as Rosie drew our attention to last week.
Can you begin to see just why, and just how important it was for Jesus to tell us we have to ‘abide in him’, and to let him abide in us, to guide, direct and change us. And Jesus told the disciples that it was through the words he had spoken to them that made that possible. How important then for us, some 2000 years on, to follow those same words, to get to know and understand the scriptures that have been handed down to us.
So how do we encourage that abundance of fruit that God our Father, the vinegrower, desires to see forming in us? How are we to foster and grow that fruit in our lives for the glory of God? What does ‘abiding in Christ’ mean?
Deep questions that we all have to face up to if we desire to become disciples of our Lord Jesus, and to receive God’s abundance of blessings; it is not possible to explore that in depth in the short time we have. You will all know by now that is why to me time spent together in small groups reading and studying scripture, and in prayer and meditation, are so important. Please talk to me if you would feel this would be of value to you and would like to join us.
The Ethiopian eunuch, reading from the prophet Isaiah, needed Philip to interpret and explain that scripture, and so do we need one another to help us understand and work out God’s intentions for us.
The scriptures are central to our growth as Christians and you and I take our bibles for granted, with many different versions available to us in our mother tongue of English. But according to the Wycliff Bible Translators, there are still 1.5 billion people around the world still waiting for a Bible in a language they understand. There are 7353 known languages in the world today, but of those only 698 have a complete Bible.
There are many devoted believers around the world, often in isolation and in fear of persecution, working to translate scripture into the ‘heart languages’ of those still waiting for a portion of the Bible in their native mother tongue.
But let us have a quick look at what Saint John had to say in our reading from his first letter. John takes up the theme of ‘abiding in him’ (1Jn4v13), that is ‘abiding in Christ’ and gives us some guidance as to how to make that our practice.
John clearly tells us that we do indeed ‘abide in God’, and that God does abide in us, if we are those who believe that God sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. But John says it is more that just a ‘belief’; John tells us that we have to confess that Jesus is the Son of God. I trust that is something we will all openly do from our hearts as we declared in a moment our faith through the words of the creed; but are we prepared to let that belief be openly known to our family, to our friends and to our neighbours?
If we have then John points to three amazing results in our lives. Have you picked up what they are from our reading? So what are they?
The first is that love should now dominate our lives and our behaviour. As we love one another, not just those we like and agree with, we know that we have been born of God and know God (1Jn4v7). That love in us follows as God first loved us (1Jn4v19), not because we deserved His love, not because we can earn God’s love, but through His grace and mercy, for God created us to be a people in His own image, a people designed to have fellowship with him.
The Apostle John stresses that it was a commandment from God that we love one another (1Jn4v21). We cannot truly love God who we have not seen John tells us, if we do not love our brothers and sisters whom we have seen. Perhaps those are some of the most challenging words we can read in our scriptures. They are words that each one of us must take time to reflect upon, and to ask for God’s help in understanding and then in implementing that command.
The second is that we know we abide in God, and that we have a relationship with Jesus our Lord and Saviour, because God has given to us His life giving Holy Spirit (1Jn4v13).
That Holy Spirit that we can recognise as the fire that burns deeply in our hearts. Can you recognise that burning of the Holy Spirit in your heart just as the two disciples did on the road to Emmaus as Jesus walked with them?
And the third is that we possess a boldness to face the coming day of judgement (1Jn4v17). No longer are we in fear of that day for we are promised that God’s perfect love in us will cast out any fear.
Have you recognised that we Christians are of all people the most blessed. We have the assurance of the love of God, the assurance that Jesus is with us as we walk our pilgrim path, and that we have the power and presence of God’s life giving Holy Spirit within us. With such in our lives, we are meant to reflect God’s glory to this needy world, and as God has opened to us the gate of everlasting life, they also give to us a hope that transcends all that we could possibly desire as we look for life with our Lord in the coming new creation.
Let us pray: The shorter Collect for this 5th Sunday of Easter
Risen Christ, your wounds declare your love for the world and the wonder of your risen life: give us compassion and courage to risk ourselves for those we serve, to the glory of God the Father. Amen