Services this coming week are:-
Thursday 6th May Feria 10.00am
Sunday 9th May Communion 9.30am
Notice is given of the following meetings:-
APCM Tuesday 18th May at 7.00pm
PCC Tuesday 18th May immediately following the APCM.
Sermon Easter 5
“Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus speaks to his disciples about how important it is to stay connected. Being in touch is important for everyone. Nowadays of course, a big part of being connected is through the internet. It can’t replace direct contact, but it has certainly made life more bearable for many over the past year and in some cases has been a lifeline. I don’t know where I would have been over the past twelve months without Facetime – being able to see family members and speak to them. In the most extreme cases this has enabled people to be in touch with loved ones when they could not be with them in person at the last. Being completely cut off at such times would have been unthinkable.
When Jesus urged his disciples to stay connected with him, it was long before the days of the internet. He speaks of a deeper and more lasting connection that flows from the intimate communion that Jesus shared with the Father. Because this mystery is difficult to explain, Jesus used familiar imagery – that of vine husbandry. We might not be very familiar with it ourselves, any more than we are with sheep and shepherding, but the idea is not so hard to grasp. Vines produce fruit, but not all the branches are fruitful. This is where pruning comes in, to help the vine to focus its energy on those places that are bearing fruit. Remaining connected to the vine is of course vital, because as Jesus tells us, branches that are no longer in touch with the vine itself will soon wither and die.
For Christians, the life of prayer is what provides sustenance and strength, not just when life is good, but especially through the hard times, when we cannot rely on our own strength alone. For many, this has been a barren year and the usual sources of happiness have not always been on tap. It is at times like this that we can discover just how much we need the strength and the life that God alone can give. If we allow ourselves to be nourished on word and sacrament, then we remain connected to, and receive from, the living God. The vine is Christ himself and we are the branches. From our baptism flows a grace that fills our lives and accomplishes within us those things that we could never do alone.
The disciples of Jesus are called to bear fruit. This means that we do not live for ourselves alone, but that we produce goodness for our world. We can only be sure of this if we live out the faith we have received. In the first letter of St John, we hear:
“Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him. We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us.”
If, like me, you enjoy a handful of grapes, or even more so, a glass or two of wine, you might not think much about where it has come from. But if it tastes good, you can be sure that a lot of time and skill has gone into producing it. Providing nutrients through good soil, ensuring that there is enough warmth and light – and then pruning – all these things encourage growth and fruitfulness. All this comes as a reminder for us not to forget the source of our own growth and flourishing.
And let’s not shy away from the pruning imagery either. As Jesus says, the fruitful branches are pruned to produce even more growth. Gardeners know all about that. Not all of our life and energy is always being used in the best way. God helps us to see our priorities – what we really need, so to live a good and fruitful life - and what we need to let go of. This past year has helped me and perhaps you too to see what is good and life-giving and what it was that was drawing our energy away.
At Pentecost we shall be reminded of the good fruit that is produced by a genuine life of faith. As St Paul tells us, the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When that fruit is produced by faithful Christians – the branches of the vine – then the world is a better place for it and others will want to experience that life for themselves.
Let’s ensure that we are a living as part of that vineyard of the Church. Above all else, as branches, let’s be sure to remain connected to the vine which is Christ, drawing life from him. If we do this we shall be sure to bear fruit and then, as Jesus himself says in today’s gospel, we shall know that we really are his disciples. The life we draw is not limited to this world alone. Christ our Lord, who has overcome death, transmits to us that life which is eternal.
If we think it is important to keep our internet connection, let’s remember just how much more life-giving it is to remain a part of the vine, in connection to the living and eternal God.