Sunday, May 6, 2012

“The Divine Vine Produces Fruit” (John 15:5-6)

S-1315 5SAE/3B 5/06/12 Hymns: (O) #10; (S) #271; (C) #409

Text: Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 4:1-11; John 15:1-8

Theme: “The Divine Vine Produces Fruit” (John 15:5-6)

Question: “Are you producing?” Armour, SD. MSL Sunday

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from Acts: “I Am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for 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” (John 15:5-6).

Blessed branches of the Divine Vine, Jesus Christ, as some of you know, I love to garden. I enjoy being on my knees, getting my hands dirty, taking little seeds, planting them in the ground and waiting for the harvest of tomatoes, carrots, radishes, beans and the like. It is evident that many others do too. As you drive around our community, you see many garden spots.

Today, as we observe Main Street Living Sunday, the Gospel lesson from John, portrays a beautiful picture of our heavenly Father as the Gardener, His Son Jesus, as the Vine and you, as the branches. And this image is one of the closest and most intimate pictures of the relationship between Christ and those who by faith believe in Him.

Keep this in mind; this discourse is taking place in the Upper Room on the night when He would be betrayed. Jesus had just finished washing the disciples’ feet, told them about Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial that will soon take place. He taught them of the Father’s large house that has many rooms, His going away and coming back, and only through Him they will be able to get to the Father. And now, He declares to His closest comrades that He is the Vine.

You don’t need to be a gardener to understand that image. We can certainly see that strong Vine coming up out of the soil, bringing life to the branches attached to it. You can see the lush green leaves that are growing on that Vine and the abundant fruit produced.

The Holy Spirit helps us with eyes of faith to see how God planted this Vine, Jesus the Christ as the Life-giving Vine into this world at Bethlehem’s manger. How this Divine Vine grew up and nurtured and nourished many that came in contact with Him. How this Divine Vine grew from Bethlehem’s stable to Calvary’s Skull Hill, from a manger of poverty to a mountain of pain; to bring about eternal life for people like us. Yes, we can see the fruit of the Divine Vine produced by Him for our benefits. And Jesus and only Jesus can claim such a title—as the Life-giving Vine.

In His teaching in the Upper Room Jesus goes a step further saying “You are the Branches!” “You” He said, looking at people like us. Yes, people like us who have been brought to faith in the Divine Vine—are as closely connected to Him as are branches to a vine. They are intertwined with Him, growing tight around Him, eternally alive in Him, and daily draw spiritual strength, sustenance and support from Him to produce fruit for Him.

The Lord Jesus continues in the text to say, “Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing”. This is a laser focus statement from the Savior of the world, apart from Me you can do nothing. If we are not connected to the Vine, the branches will die and will not produce fruit. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain connected to the Vine. And neither can we bear fruit unless we remain in Him.

This is so important for us to hear and understand. Many people claim to be Christians, but have nothing to do with the Church. Many people say they believe in Jesus but never worship, serve or obey Him. Many say, I can be a Christian but don’t have to be in God’s house. That is such foolish talk. Scripture is so clear in teaching us we can’t be on our own and expect to live and grow and produce fruit. Without the Divine Vine there will be no fruit produced. No connection to Him means no nourishment for faith. No nourishment leads to faith drying up and of course, no fruit of faith in daily life. Disconnected from the source of life, a person can only be dead.

But to those who are connected to Him, they produce fruit of joy, peace, love, patience, kindness and the like. Anyone who is connected to the Divine Vine will by faith bring about fruit worthy of the Divine Vine. I share with you an example of this fruit-bearing in the life of a fine Christian woman by the name of Edna. Edna, due to her advanced age and declining mobility, would benefit from watching TV programs like Main Street Living. God nurtured and nourished her, God sustained and strengthened her in that way. She was a faithful branch of the Divine Vine. Everyone could see it in her life.

Edna died a couple of years ago. In her obituary, her family acknowledged her faithfulness and her Christian influence. They quoted Proverbs 31:28 – Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Such a woman, the holy writer says in the same chapter of Proverbs, is “far more precious than jewels.” She is an amazingly productive woman; therefore, “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (Proverbs 31:11a). And why wouldn’t he have full confidence in her? You should see the list of the things she can do, this amazing woman from Proverbs 31. She works in both wool and flax, says the writer, harvesting these fibers, processing them, and making them into garments. She brings food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. This woman makes Martha Stewart look like a slouch, a slacker! But that’s the way it is with faithful Christian wives and mothers, who are branches of the Vine, Jesus Christ. They work, they serve, they love, they bring their children up in the fear of the Lord. Yes, such a woman is far more precious than jewels. And such was Edna!

Such faithful branches of the Vine, like Edna, would probably protest: “Pastor, I don’t know about all that. I just do what I have to do; it isn’t that big a deal.” You know why a Christian would say such a thing? Because our strength and ability to bear such fruit comes from Jesus, the Life-Giving Divine Vine! That’s why. PAUSE.

Faithful branches of the Divine Vine, Jesus Christ, we want our lives to be like Edna’s—productive. But in order for us to be like that, we need to remain connected to the Vine. How then do we avoid becoming dead branches? The key, of course, to our remaining vital branches and not becoming dead branches in the kingdom of God is to remain connected to the Vine, Jesus, and to receive nourishment from Him! That’s why Jesus came to earth in the first place. We and all humankind were helplessly dead branches, whose destiny it was to be picked up and thrown into the fire. Lifeless, fruitless, worthless, dead-in-sin branches!

But at the right time, when we were lifeless, fruitless, worthless, dead-in-sin branches, Jesus, the promised Shoot of Jesse and Son of David appeared. Jesus was and is the Divine Vine, and He came to bring life to us all!

Jesus had a most unusual plan to bring us life. He would have to suffer, and even, for a time, be cut off from God the Father as He took the sin and eternal punishment of all humankind upon Himself on the cross. The Divine Vine, Jesus, died. He was buried. But in three days He rose from the dead. After 40 more days, He ascended into heaven. And He, the living Lord, has given us the great gift of the Holy Spirit, who, through the tools of God’s Word and Sacraments keeps us connected to the Vine, giving us saving faith, active faith, and keeping us in the faith.

It is clear: by God’s power through the powerful message of Jesus Christ we remain connected to the Divine Vine…and we live…forever with Him and produce fruit for Him.

On this day as we observe Main Street Living TV program we want to thank the Divine Vine for moving people in SD to produce fruit for Him. Every week the Lord uses pastors from this beloved District and Minnesota to share the Life-giving Word with those who are no longer able to be in the house of the Lord.

We need this ministry of Main Street Living, because people need Jesus, the Divine Vine! For over ten years now, Main Street Living has been produced. The first broadcast of Main Street Living was made on January 6, 2002. Five hundred broadcasts later, it’s still going strong, thanks to the faithful branches who volunteer their time to feed many on a weekly basis.

The cost of these broadcasts, while reasonable, is still substantial. Each broadcast costs about $2000 to produce and air. You and I as living branches have the privilege of keeping the broadcasts going through our offerings to Main Street Living. Will you prayerfully consider giving something to help ensure that the show continues for many more years? Will you consider offering regular gifts to this vital ministry? I pray that you will for the glory of God and the benefit of your neighbor.

Today, join me in thanking the Divine Vine, who uses us to produce fruit for His honor. Today, the Holy Spirit blesses you as He keeps you connected to Him, so that you may live with Him forever and ever. Amen.

Now the peace…


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