Gospel: John 15: 1-11
Today’s Gospel text follows on the heals of the message that Glenndy Ose brought to us last Sunday. Last Sunday Glenndy spoke of Jesus as the Great Shepherd of the Sheep an image we quite like to have until we recall that, hey, Jesus is calling us sheep. All we do is just kind of stand there and let Jesus do all the work. To which I respond: exactly.
This morning we hear Jesus refer to himself as the vine and to us as branches. Another quite intriguing picture of who Jesus Christ is but again, kind of a disheartening image for someone who wants to know what it is they need to do to get into heaven.
Each of our girls developed their independent gene in similar ways and they both made those developments known to us in their use of language. For one of them it was they word, “Self”. If we tried to do something for her she would snatch whatever it was out of our hands with the words, “self self!”. Likewise our other daughter notified us of her independence by grabbing the spoon or whatever we were trying to do for her with the words, “Oni me, oni me!”
Those traits continue in each of us as we grow and develop as adults. We are a people who are proud of the things we accomplish for ourselves. We pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and soldier on making our way through life to each his own.
The news has had quite a few stories on the decline of the mainline church and the rise of the mega non-denominational church. Why is this happening one radio commentator wanted to know? One young woman phoned in and said, “I go to such and such church because their message is relevant to my life and is filled with good advice. The sermons teach me how to be a better spouse, a better Christian, and a better person.”
We like to have a checklist of things we have to do so that we can then be assured of our place in God’s presence.
But then these little vignettes pop up in Scripture and it turns everything that we want to do on our head, instead it is showing us what it is God is doing to bring us together and to give us life. We just sit there in the sheepfold or stay clinging to the vine. No branch gets to exclude any other branch, it’s not our job, God does the pruning and tending to His garden.
Our job, if it can be called that, is to abide in Christ. In the movie the Big Lebowski the character played by Jeff Bridges was called simply, “The Dude” and the dude was known for one thing and one thing only... the Dude Abides. The dude was always around and always would be. The dude stays the dude even when everything else around him was going crazy.
So when Christ is talking about the branches abiding in the vine is he using the same definition as the dude? I think so. We cannot win our salvation by doing checklists of good works, our salvation was won for us by Christ, our good shepherd, our vine.
We, in turn, have been grafted into Christ by virtue of our baptism, we have become part of the vine. It is our job to make sure we stay that way, thus, while good works are not our salvation, making sure we stay near Christ is. Like any living thing our faith our relationship with Christ needs to be nourished to stay alive, thus, when we come to church, study God’s word, find fellowship with other people on their life’s journey’s, we find ourselves drawing our life and our light from the true vine, Jesus Christ. But, when we do not we find ourselves soon lost and dried out, ready to be thrown on the fire. When I get into conversations about faith with seekers or with those who just aren’t sure about the whole God thing yet I like to explain our my spirituality, my faith, is like having an extra gear waiting for when the going gets rough. People of faith have been proven to be more resilient to life’s curve balls because we know when confronted by these things that we are not alone. It is not up to us alone to walk through this life. We have each other, and more importantly, we have our true vine, jesus Christ.