“THE TRUE VINE”

1) the vine title.jpg

MARCH 14th, 2018                                                                                       PASTOR DON PIEPER

Psalm 8:7-11,14-19                                                                                        ISAIAH 5:1-5, 7a     

The Great I AM                                                                                            JOHN 15:1-17

 

                                                            “THE TRUE VINE

 

            As the evening ended, Jesus’ tone abruptly changed.  His demeanor has shifted.  He's quoted the prophet, Isaiah, who spoke of a people with amnesia.  He's washed his friends’ feet as their servant Messiah.  He's predicted his death and said he'd be denied, betrayed and abandoned....by his friends.

 

            The mood is somber; the air is tense.  They leave singing. They’ll return in silence.  It’s a walk in the dark, but no mere walk in the park.  To follow him now would lead to Calvary.  And so, as they head to the Mount of Olives, he offers this final teaching, of the Gardner, the one true vine and those he sends branching.  “I am the Vine and you are the branches…” (John 15:5)

 

            Life has a way of taking some unexpected turns. At times I wonder why things are the way they are, baffled by a God unseen and mysterious, frustrated that God’s sense of timing doesn’t match mine.

 

            But if I lean in close, I can make out Jesus’ final words of instruction, and catch anew his Spirit-filled vision.  Here, on the way to the Garden he reminds us why we are here: “I am the Vine and you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit...  You didn’t choose me, I chose you.  I appointed you to go and produce much fruit – fruit that will last…”                                                                                                                                           (John 15:5, 16)

            Why are we here?   We're here because we've been chosen – hand-picked, as it were, to bear fruit – a lot of fruit, lasting fruit!  The question is, what is this fruit and how can we produce it? 

 

            Scripture clearly points to two kinds of fruit: inner fruit and outward fruit.  You bear inner fruit as the Holy Spirit cultivates in you a Christ-like character: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22)

 

            You bear outward fruit when you allow God to work through you to bring Him glory.  Encour-aging others, helping those in need, forgiving those who've hurt you, loving on those no one else will, and witnessing in word and deed to those outside the community of faith of the love and grace of God – it all produces fruit.  Such fruit lasts because it has a way of inspiring others to do likewise.

 

            It brings to mind a commercial that came out a couple of years ago, *of a woman on a city street who saves a man from being hit by a car........., (who in turn helps another, who helps another...)   

            [* start Youtube video - Liberty Mutual Commercial – “A Helping Hand Is Contagious”]

 

            Here’s the thing: Jesus isn’t about making your dreams come true.  Our dreams are always too small.  We're here to fulfill God’s dream, which Jesus, in his final instructions, put so eloquently – “My true disciples produce much fruit.  This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:8We bring God glory by investing in his kingdom – in the lives of those around us – one cluster at a time! 

 

            The voices out there say that everything is relative, but Jesus, on the other hand, says that every-thing is relational.   He speaks of how God is relational, that as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, (all of whom Jesus speaks of in John 15), God is invested in loving, nurturing relationships in His very being. 

 

 

                                                                                    -2-

 

            Further, Jesus speaks of how God the Father is like a gardener, tending to his vineyard, the ancient image of the people of God, as we saw from PS 80/Isaiah 5.  So it is that Jesus speaks of prun-ing and watering, where Jesus serves as the Vine nurturing us, his branches vibrant with the sap of the Holy Spirit all for one, common purpose, of producing not just some fruit, but an abundance of fruit.

 

            The world says everything is relative.  Jesus says no, everything is relational.  We strive for control, independence, to be the master of our own destiny. Jesus says, no, you are all dependent on me as interdependent branches on a vine.  “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing.”                                                                                                                                                       (John 15:5)

            Jesus sees in you a work in progress.  He sees in you a potential yet untapped.  He sees a vine-yard of hurting hearts, who tend to get the horse before the cart, the crop before the dirt.  He sees in you a work in progress.   To bring his vision to life, to help us progress to perfection, he offers us what Pastor John Thomason calls, “Perichoretic Power”!   More on that in a moment. 

 

            Jesus offers two main ways we can live lives rich with meaning and purpose.  First, be positive about his pruning.   John 15 provides us with the best good news we'd rather not hear.  That is, God disciplines those who produce no fruit and prunes those who do.  That doesn't mean all hardship, or even most hardship, is God's handiwork as the book of Job reveals but whether he's behind it or not God is always looking to make use of it to awaken those branches that are dead and bare.

 

            Jesus points to a gardener who carefully, lovingly prunes what is in his care.  We seem to be born with the misconception that we are in control of our lives. Note a baby’s first 4 words: No!  Mine!  Gimme!  Mommy!   This assumption, that we know better, is in conflict with the life of faith.  That’s why, very early in your pruning, God’ll ask you to give up your ‘right’ to know why certain things happen.  In fact, in the chapter immediately preceding this one, Peter was distressed to hear Jesus speak of leaving and asked, “Why, Lord?  Where are you going and why can't I come?”

 

            To which Jesus said, “Don't let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.”

                                                                                                                                    (John 13:36-7;14:1)

            At such times Jesus urges us to simply hold on tight to those arms that will never let us go.  In pruning, how you respond makes all the difference.  You can complain, fume or run away - or you can experience the comfort and peace that comes to disciples who keep their eyes on the prize, not the pain.

 

            Second, to reach our potential Jesus urges us to “abide”, or to “remain”, in him.   He urges us to stay closely connected.   Within six verses Jesus tells us to abide ten times.  You can sense his passion in this repeated plea.  In order for his supernatural power to be at work in our lives and thru us in the lives of those around us, we need to be well connected.  We need to abide and remain abiding in him!

 

            Remember the commercial, A Helping Hand Is Contagious?  I've watched over the years as Josh and Natalia Collier, came to faith thru Alpha, then slowly and surely deepend their connection to Christ thru the Body of Christ.   The two repeatedly reach out to encourage others to abide in Him as they do. This last year they reached out to two of our Alpha guests, Nick and Misty, who are now abiding..., who in turn reached out this winter to a homeless man, who, after moving to Port Angeles, took a bus in order to make it to Alpha and who exhibited great joy as joined in praying...for Josh!

 

 

                                                                                    -3-

 

            “My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father.I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love.   I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy.  Yes, your joy will overflow!  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”  (John 15:8-12)  To abide is to relate…personally…intimately.   It’s relational!

                                                                                   

            His vision of the church is of that of a living organism deeply rooted in him, in his teachings and in his very Spirit, producing fruit, that when ripe, juicy and abundant, satisfies not only our deepest hunger and thirst, but that of the world around us as we share it/him thru perichoetic power!

 

            Pastor John Thomason illustrates this point in in his illustrated message on The One True Vine in a short film in which he speaks of the “Perichoretic Power” Jesus offers us!   Here it is...

 

            [Youtube video, “The Vine and the Branches”....]

 

            As noted, Jesus' vision of the church is of that of a living organism deeply rooted in him, in his teachings and in his very Spirit, producing fruit, that when ripe and abundant, satisfies not only our deepest hunger and thirst, but that of the world around us as we share it/him thru perichoetic power!

 

            Such a thing is possible where the Spirit’s Water of Life flows from the Father, thru the Vine, thru the branches, to the Father, thru the vine, thru the branches to a hungery, thirsty world, which ultimately glorifies the Father – the Master Gardener! 

 

            The world says everything is relative.  Jesus says no, everything is relational.  We strive for control, independence, to be the master of our own destiny. Jesus says, no, you are all dependent on me as interdependent branches on a vine.  “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing.”                                                                                                                                                       (John 15:5)

            Jesus sees in you a work in progress.  He sees in you a potential yet untapped.  He sees a vine-yard of hurting hearts, who tend to get the horse before the cart, the crop before the dirt.  He sees in you a work in progress.   To bring his vision to life, he offers us “Perichoretic Power”!  “Yes, I Am the Vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. “