THE 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  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.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
Some of the branches of my pear trees will not be bearing fruit this year. They will not bud out this spring. They will not flower. Not on account of the cold. God-willing it will soon be warm enough for them to do all of that. No, the reason that they won’t do anything this year is because they are lying in the bush, where I dragged them after cutting them off late last Fall.
Branch life is simple. Abide on the vine and the life of the vine will flow into you and you will bear fruit. Remain on the vine and the vine dresser will look after you. He will tend you, prune you, so that you will be even more fruitful. Stay put on the vine and you will be praised, you will be rewarded, you will live.
But branch out on your own, try to live apart from the vine, well, that won’t go so well. Branches lying on the ground don’t grow anymore. They don’t bud. They don’t leaf out. Leave them for a couple of days and all the life will go out of them. Cut off branches don’t bear fruit. Cut off branches aren’t looked after. Cut off branches are dead. Cut off branches are only good for burning or composting in the bush.
Jesus couldn’t make it any clearer for us. The image is so plain, so powerful. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Him. Everything depends on Jesus, our life, our fruit, our glory. Apart from Him you can do nothing. Apart from Jesus there is no life, there is no fruit, there is no glory. Apart from Jesus you are dead, you are only good for the fire.
Christian life is simple. Abide in Jesus, remain in Jesus, stay put in Jesus and His life will flow into you and you will bear fruit. Here is no choose Jesus, make a decision for Jesus, give your heart to Jesus. Here is only abide, remain, stay put. You, after all, couldn’t go to Jesus that’s why He came down to you. You, after all, couldn’t find Jesus that’s why He came to find you. You, after all, couldn’t give your broken heart to Jesus that’s why He gave His heart to be broken for you.
We do not make ourselves a part of the vine, the vine makes us a part of it. The vine does not come out of the branch but the branch comes out of the vine. The life flows from the vine into the branch. We do not make ourselves clean, the word that the Lord speaks to us, makes us clean. His washing word, His cleansing word, His life-giving word has washed us, cleansed us, given us life in Him. He has spoken into our silence and brought forth new life.
When did this happen? When we were baptized into Him. There in the water He spoke His word over us and He cleansed us by His Spirit. There in the water He joined His life to our lives. His death became our death. His resurrection became our resurrection. He came to abide in us. We came to abide in Him. He became our vine. We became His branches. Here we were grafted into the vine. Here we were adopted by God. Here we received a new birth into a living hope.
Our life in the vine is all a gift of grace, an undeserved gift, a blessing from the hand of God. We have done nothing to earn it, nothing to achieve it, nothing to deserve it. A complete and total gift from the Father, given through the Son, by the power of the Spirit. But we must be fruitful. The fruitful branches are pruned to get more fruit but the fruitless they are taken away. They are cut off and then they wither, then they dry out and then they are burned.
Being fruitful then matters. It is very important. Something needs to be done about it. But what? What is a branch to do to be fruitful? Can a branch produce its own fruit? The branch has no life in it apart from the vine. The branch is only fruitful through the vine. And so to be fruitful all that the branch has to do is abide in the vine. Stay put, remain, abide in Jesus and you will bear fruit. He will bear fruit through you. As long as you don’t leave Him you will be fruitful.
Don’t branch out on your own and you will bear fruit. And so if you see a lack of fruit what is the problem? Branching, that’s the problem, lots of branching and not so much abiding. Forgetting Jesus, neglecting Jesus, leaving Jesus and so poor fruit, bad fruit, fruitlessness. Branching out from Jesus’ life, branching out from Jesus’ love, and so faith suffers, and so love suffers. How fruity were you this week? How did faith do? How did love do?
Branching. It’s a big problem for people like me and you. Branching goes along with that whole wanting to be our own gods thing that all got started in Eden. Branching. It’s a big problem that can only be solved by pruning. Pruning cuts the branch back bringing it closer to vine. A pruned branch produces more fruit, better fruit, because the life of the vine goes into the fruit rather than all that “branchiness.”
Pruning is done by the Pruner. Pruning is done for repentance to make us more fruitful. Pruning let’s us know it’s not all about the branch it is not all about us. Apart from me you can do nothing. Those are pruning words, razor sharp cutting words, words that make you look at all the branchiness of your life and see all that stuff you try to do on your own, apart from Jesus. Those words make you look at all the stuff you cut out Jesus to do. None of it’s worth anything only good to be cut off and tossed into the fire.
Pruning fixes our eyes on Jesus. Pruning focuses our lives on Jesus. Pruning centers our hearts on Jesus. Pruning cuts away all that useless, fruitless branching, so that I can see the vine, so that I can remember what it is all about - abiding in Jesus. Pruning that is what the Father is up to this morning, through His Word by His Spirit, pruning away all that branchiness so that we might see Jesus and have our eyes fixed on Him and Him alone.
Now look and see, beloved, with all that branchiness cut away. Here is the true vine, here to share His life with you that you might bear abundant fruit. Here is Jesus, to pour His blood into you, to give His flesh into you, so that His life might course through your veins, so that His life might live in your flesh. Here is Jesus, beloved, the true vine. Here to make you a true branch, by abiding in you, by remaining in you, by staying put in you.
Branch life is simple. Abide on the vine, remain on the vine , stay put on the vine and the life of the vine will flow into you and you will bear fruit. Abide, remain, stay put on the vine and the vine dresser will look after you. He will tend you, prune you, so that you will be even more fruitful. Abide, remain, stay put on the vine and you will be praised, you will be rewarded, you will live. Amen.