Vine Abiding and Family Cultivation

 

Pastor Jim Kniseley prepared this sermon for Mother’s Day, May 14, 2006.  The text is John 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, only if it abides in the vine; neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

I have in my hands a printout of my Family Tree, thanks to my Uncle Carl in Brookville, Pennsylvania.  He went back as far as he could on my father’s side to ancestors in Switzerland in the 1500’s and then Germany and then America in the 1700’s, and right up to the family members I have personally known, including grandparents and parents. 

 

What does a Family Tree tell say?  It tells me that I am related to a whole bunch of people (probably some I could be proud of and some not so proud of), the person I am today is greatly influenced by the folks who have gone before me, and I and the rest of this generation will greatly influence the following generations.

 

Mothers, you  especially influence the next generation and that is why we take time today to honor you this day  There are  others that influence and teach the next generation too.  St. Paul wrote a letter to young Timothy, his co-worker.  His purpose is to give encouragement to Timothy, perhaps in a time of self-doubt about his ability to do ministry.  Paul includes these words in the very first part of the letter:

 

            I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your

            grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and now lives in you also.”

 

I consider this verse a wonderful formula for passing on the faith and everything else that is important.  Grandmother to mother to me, or  Grandfather to father to me.  Sunday School teacher to student.  Baptismal sponsor to child.

 

In today’s gospel, Jesus uses another metaphor to describe his Family Tree.  He says that He is the Vine and we are the Branches.  He wonderfully  pictures what this sort of relationship really means.

 

We have to think viticulture here and how the owner of a vineyard thinks.  I’m told that when you plant grapevines, you do not permit them to bear fruit for the first three years.  You dramatically prune them in December and January too preserve their energy.  The particular branches that do not bear fruit are cut out to further conserve the energy of the plant.  If this constant cutting back were not done, the result would be a crop that was not up to its full potential.

 

 

So, in Jesus’ analogy, he likens himself to a vine, while the fruit bearing branches are all disciples.  God the farmer is depicted as the one who cultivates the vineyard.  He waters and tends the soil, so that the vine is properly nourished.  He takes pride in his crop.  But this means that he also prunes the vines and removes the dead wood.  The grapes hang on to the branches.  What Jesus is saying is clear.  The disciples should receive their strength from Jesus.  He is the true vine.  If they break away form him, they will be like unproductive branches and die and bear no fruit.  They then will have to be pruned out.

 

All the Bible commentaries emphasize the point of Jesus’ story about the vine and the branches.  The point is: fruit-bearing.  The purpose of planting a vineyard is to produce grapes.  The point of being a disciple of Jesus is to bear fruit.  What are these fruits.  Some of the fruits of the spirit mentioned in scripture include:

 

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,                                             faithfulness, gentleness, and self control

 

Just think how special family life and church are when these fruits of the spirit are experienced in great abundance.  Or think of the opposite: how sad is family life and church life when these fruits of the spirit are greatly lacking.

 

Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you.”  Abide.  Do you know what it means?  We don’t use the word much, if ever, in everyday conversation.  Yet, when Jesus says it, it “feels” like something we want to have, a relationship with Jesus that sounds comforting and assuring.

 

Webster defines “abide” in this way:

1.      to wait for

2.      to endure without yielding

3.      to accept without objection

 

What would it mean in your life right now if you truly let Jesus abide in you?  That you wait for his wisdom and guidance, that you accept his promises without objection, that you do not give in to temptation and doubt?

 

Let me tell you about Marion Anderson, perhaps the greatest contralto who ever lived, and the wonderful relationship she had with her mother.  It was said of Mrs. Anderson’s life:  her music could bring one to tears; her life could bring one to their knees.  She was once being interviewed and she was asked the most wonderful moment in her most impressive career.  She could have mentioned that time when the great Arturo Toscanini told her that her was the greatest voice of the century.  She could have mentioned that time when she sang before the Roosevelts and the King and Queen of England.  She could have said it was winning a coveted award for the person who had done the most for her hometown of Philadelphia. 

There was also the time when she sang before the crowd of 75,000 on Easter Sunday beneath the Lincoln statue.  Which of these high moments would she choose?  None of them.  My greatest moment, she said, is when I went home to my mother and said: Mom, you’ll never have to take in washing again.

 

Resurrection People, if this relationship can exist between a mother and a daughter, then how much more can be our relationship with Jesus Christ?  “I am the true vine,” he said. “As the father has loved me, so I have loved you.  Now!  Now, Jesus said, abide in my love.”  Amen.