Sermon: The True Vine


Matt 28: 16 – 20
John 15: 1 – 11

On the day that is to be his last physical day on earth, Jesus gathers his disciples on a mountaintop. We are reminded of another mountaintop gathering where Jesus’ light shone bright and blinding. Do you think the disciples might be glancing around hoping to glimpse Elijah and Moses?

When the disciples see Jesus, they worship him, but some doubted. Do they still doubt Jesus? or do they doubt their ability to follow Jesus? Do they doubt their own hearts?

Do they doubt their strength and courage to follow Jesus when Jesus isn’t there, especially knowing how hard it was to follow Jesus when he was there?

This mountaintop gathering feels like an ending and I wonder if the disciples are hoping that they are going to get to leave the problems of the world behind and just go with Jesus…do they doubt their ability to carry on?

Doubt is such a part of faith. Don’t we wrestle with doubt? Don’t we doubt our ability to serve when we worry about not having enough people or not having enough money or not having enough committees or commitment…aren’t we wrestling right now with our doubt about our ability to go on?

Jesus’ answer to all our doubt and fear is “Go. Go and make disciples. Baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach others to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Jesus answer to doubt is, Go out into the world and make a difference. Go, out into the world and live according to God’s Word. Jesus final instruction as he is leaving his disciples is…GO!

I think of poor Thomas, who earlier has said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going…how can we possibly know where we should go…there are so many roads to travel…so many different directions…can you be more specific? We need a road map!

Well, Jesus did leave us a road map…Jesus says, “follow me.” So we need to look at the places that Jesus went, in order to see where Jesus wants us to go.

Jesus went to the people on the edges, the fringes, the uncomfortable people…He pushed his way through the thronging crowds to reach out to the invisible cripple begging by the gate. Jesus had lunch with the hated tax man hiding from the crowd in a tree.

Jesus pushed his way through cultural barriers to reach out to the shunned and lonely woman by the well. He reached out to touch and heal the bent and broken woman ignored in the midst of her faith community. Jesus even reached across racial prejudices to heal the daughter of an enemy Caananite woman.

Jesus fed, first his own people,…and then fed the gentiles who came flocking after him. Jesus went into the heart of a predatory and corrupted Temple system and a corrupt and oppressive political system and spoke truth and demanded justice according to God’s laws and commandments. There are so many roads to travel when Jesus says, “Go.”

The disciples doubt and Jesus says, “just go…go out – in my name…go out knowing I am the True Vine and you are the branches.” Go out rooted and moving, rooted in Jesus, the Word made flesh, rooted in Jesus who sustains and nourishes.

Go – rooted and on the move – rooted in Jesus, the True Vine, where we draw sustenance and strength, on the move – like a vine, stretching, reaching out – grabbing hold of each other and those around us –

On the move, reaching out to the community, to our neighbors, to those right here in our own church that need strength, that need community, that need love, that need to unite through the Spirit that lifts and nourishes and sustains us all. On the move, Reaching out, grabbing hold, interconnected, intertwined…

Go out knowing that God is the Vinegrower.

Trust in God to prune away what is dead and withered, to prune away what is exhausting and unhealthy. We need to trust God to prune away what isn’t working in our own lives and in our lives together. We need to trust God to shape and guide our growth. We need to trust that God will bring new life where we can only see death and defeat.

Discerning how to follow Jesus, is not about finding a mission or ministry, or moving to a new building, or deciding whether or not to close. Discernment is about opening our connections to God, the Vinegrower, and strengthening our connection and attachment to Jesus, the one True Vine.

Discernment means, NOT being Martha, who was anxious and troubled about many things, but being Mary, who set everything else aside and sat at Jesus feet to immerse herself in God’s Word.

Discernment and prayer is how we become more deeply Rooted in Jesus and more awake to the direction in which God is leading us. Discernment means listening for where our ideas and positive energy are coalescing –

..watching for where our energy levels start to rise and watching for where our energy starts to wane… observing those high and low energy areas in our lives, points us toward where we are being led to invest our time, our energy, and our resources.

It is time for us, as Jesus’ disciples, to go out, rooted in Jesus and moving where we feel God is leading us. Trusting in God to shape our future.

Jesus leaves all his disciples across all ages, this final instruction, – to remember, to remember “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus instructs us to remember, that even crucifixion, even death, as final as it seemed …was not an ending…but a new beginning.

Jesus says, remember, it is in traveling with Jesus, that failure, defeat, and even death, becomes a way through to new life…where we can discover Jesus’ joy in us so that our joy may be complete.

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