Easter Five May 2, 2021
In our society today, we have a lot of technology that allows us to talk to each other. Back when I was a kid, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no such thing as a microwave oven, all we had was letters, and the telephone. Oh, and we had walkie-talkies. The kind kids could afford to buy had a range of maybe 30 feet, but we liked them anyway. But since that time, we have had personal computers, e-mail, internet messaging, cellphones, palm pilots, wi-fi and so on. (Remember Palm Pilots?) And the commercials for all this stuff make it sound like we can’t live without them! (People did live without them for thousands of years, just saying.) With these things, and I use some of this stuff, we do get to stay connected.
In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus referred to Himself as a Shepherd and to us as sheep. Today we hear Jesus calling Himself the “true vine” and us “the branches.” Jesus calls us these things to build us up and to announce how much He loves us. These are terms of endearment from the Lord to us, His people. And through them, He reminds us of our new relationship we have with Him since Easter, and that we are to “Stay Connected.” With Him.
In the text for today, we do see a time when Jesus was referring to us, His children, as branches. The Bible uses many different pictures when referring to us. Sometimes we are called sheep. Sometimes simply as children. We are also referred to as a holy priesthood, and as the bride of Christ. But here we are branches. The Bible often uses agricultural metaphors. Just about everyone in Jesus’ time or in the Old Testament days would have had a garden or a field or something. Everyone had to grow their own food. Jesus couldn’t just walk into a Homeland, Uptown, Target, Wal-Mart, Sprouts, Natural Grocers, Aldis or Crest.
So here we are called branches. This shows us a sense of “connectedness,” a unity that now exists when we are living our lives as a part of Jesus’ family, if you will, rather than apart from Him. We know that if we live apart from Jesus, we are doomed. Jesus warns us in the text this morning: “Apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (vv 5–6). Anyone living apart from Jesus is doomed to a place in hell.
In our lives as the people of God, we don’t want to become dead branches, as Jesus has pictured them. How do we prevent this, when it comes to our relationship with God, staying connected, and bearing fruit for Him? Jesus makes it clear in our lesson today. The key to our remaining vital, living branches and not becoming dead branches in the kingdom of God is to remain connected to the vine, Jesus, and to receive life from Him. (online vs. being here) All of us need to Stay Connected.
Our heavenly Father had a most unusual plan to bring us life through the Divine Vine. The plan for life would involve death. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would have to suffer and even, for a time, be cut off from God the Father as Jesus took upon Himself on the cross the sin and eternal punishment of all of us. The vine, Jesus, died. He was buried. But in three days, He rose from the dead. Forty days later, He ascended into heaven. And from heaven, Jesus Christ, the living Lord, has given you the great gift of the Holy Spirit, who, through the tools of God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper, keeps you connected to the vine, giving you and keeping you in saving faith—active, fruit-bearing faith. We are not apart from Jesus. We as branches are connected to the true Vine, and that means that we have the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. The Holy Spirit has linked us to Jesus and we are connected.
When we are connected to Christ by faith, He provides us with the proper nutrition by Word and Sacrament. We all know how important it is that we eat and drink, and that we eat and drink the right stuff. I have been on a diet and running for 5 and a half years, and I am happy to say I have lost 35 pounds. But we need to eat and drink to stay healthy.
Our souls need nourishment the same way our bodies do. And our hungry and thirsty souls are fed by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. And the food we get here is the Word and Sacraments. We are fed by reading and studying God’s Word, hearing it proclaimed and explained here, and by receiving what God offers in Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. That is how we are fed. And when we are fed, as a result, we bear fruit.
Or we can go back to the agricultural metaphor. When we have gardens and lawns, we fertilize our gardens and grass to make them grow and flourish each season. When we lived over in Trails South, I had to keep up the yard and flower beds or the homeowner’s association was going to get me. (The lady that was in charge of that was vicious.) For plants to flourish, they must be fed, watered and weeded. We as branches must be “fed” too. God provides what we need through Word and Sacraments. We are fed here, and we need to be fed here.
And then we need to bring others here to be fed here. I think we are down to four people who were here when I was installed, but when Pres. Diekelman installed me as your pastor, he told the story of a guy named Max and the time that Max, his dad, and his best friend went fishing. But the weather did not cooperate. They were cooped up in a camper for three or four days, and by the time those days had elapsed, they were all at each other’s throats. The moral to the story? When fishermen aren’t fishing, their fighting. And, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all here to go fishing. And we need to reach out, with whatever means we can, and bring people here to get here what Jesus offers here. Whether it is here in the building or online.
We are so blessed, and we have so much to share. Being connected to Him, we then produce fruit. By grace, by what God puts in here, we produce good fruit that others, by our Christian witness, would want for themselves. Paul tells us those things would include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self–control. That’s what we have. That is what we have to offer.
When connected to Jesus Christ we are flourishing, vibrant, full of life. Jesus is with us and in us. It works sort of like this. Back in 1989, an earthquake flattened Armenia, killing 30,000 people in four minutes. After the tremors stopped, a father ran to the elementary school where his son attended. The building was a pile of rubble. He remembered the promise he had made to his son, “No matter what happens, I’ll always be there for you.” Driven by that promise, he found the area closest to his son’s room and began to pull away rocks and debris. Other parents came and sobbingly said, “It’s too late. They are all dead.” But the father refused to give up. For 8 hours, 16 hours, 36 hours he dug. His hands were raw and his energy gone, but he refused to quit. Finally, as he pulled back a large boulder, he heard his son’s voice respond to his call, “Dad, it’s me.” The boy was with a small group of children who were alive, trapped beneath the rubble. He had told the others that his dad was going to save him because he promised always to be there, and when he saved him, he would save them too. Jesus promised His disciples, Jesus promises us, “No matter what happens, I’ll always be there.” Jesus will always be connected to us. We need to stay connected to Him, and to one another.
In the Name of Jesus.