He has grafted you into Christ!
Jesus is always the vine. He is not going anywhere! It is the branches that are in danger should they cut themselves off from Christ. Jesus remains always willing, able and ready to announce his marvelous gifts of forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation to everyone!
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
The picture of the branch and the vine is a very simple one. Although there aren’t many vineyards here in Georgia/Carolina, we still understand the picture. All one has to do is look at a broken tree branch, especially a fruit tree, to know the necessity of being connected to the vine or trunk. You’ve seen rotting peaches laying beneath a tree because it has fallen from the tree. You know the importance of trimming rose bushes, crape myrtles, azaleas and all the other trees and bushes that grow in your yard lest they become overgrown and unproductive. All of these every day experiences make it easy for us to understand the point of Jesus’ lesson today.
Stay Connected to Jesus
The growing process of Christian living
The consequences of cutting oneself off from Christ
The blessings of life in Christ
Confirmation Sunday can be a confusing day in the life of a Christian. So much of the day’s festivities focus on the accomplishments of the young people confessing their faith this day. Truth be told, they haven’t really done anything all that spectacular. They have completed a course of study that the church has required of them in order that they might properly receive holy communion. So much of what we do suggests that they are “finishing” something. But the reality is they are just getting started.
Jesus compares the growing process of the Christian life to the branches of a vine. He himself is the true vine. Everything the Christian needs for his own growth comes from Jesus – the true vine. Then he says that his Father is the gardener who cares for the vine and protects and preserves the vine for its long life by keeping the vine trimmed and pruned as is necessary for its own good health.
Notice that the Father is very much a results-oriented gardener. He is looking for people connected to Jesus to respond in faith and gratitude for the blessings we enjoy while being connected to Jesus. Everything the believers does out of faith and love for God is like the fruit that grows on the vine. As God works in his garden he cuts off the unproductive branches from the vine and prunes the fruitful branches so that they may be even more productive. The fruits of the Holy Spirit become more and more evident in the lives of Christians. St. Paul describes the fruits of faith as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Jesus says, “you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” Notice that “being clean” is completely the result of the Word of God which assures you that Jesus Christ is your hope and salvation. By the grace of God, you are forgiven children of God and you live at peace with him daily just as he promises us in his Word – just as these children have been taught! The growing process is already at work in your hearts and lives! Keep it going!
The danger for us it to take our connection to Jesus for granted. We stunt our own spiritual growth when we develop a lackadaisical attitude toward the Word of God. These young people have been cramming Biblical truths into their heads in the last few weeks to prepare for their examination today. I’m sure they won’t be looking over those question and answer sheets for today’s examination again any time soon! But I hope they will continue to look over their catechism and do some Bible reading each day to stay connected to God’s Word and even grow to know their Savior better. It is only through God’s Word and sacraments that we stay connected to Jesus. Jesus says in our text, “remain in me, and I will remain in you.” That is a fact and a promise!
The consequences of cutting oneself off from Christ are lethal. Jesus says, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” There is nothing in you that is pleasing to God! You cannot please God in anything you do if you are cut off from Christ. Pleasing God is all about doing good works. Good works are the fruits of faith. “Without faith (in Christ) it is impossible to please God,” the Bible says. Since the Bible also says, “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Ro10:17), it becomes clear that nothing good can come of a life that is cut off from Christ.
I have had the misfortune of watching many young people like you run away from Christ after their confirmation. They chase anything that brings them pleasure for a few minutes. And after one conquest after another, they don’t come running back to God’s house in repentance and faith, pleading for forgiveness and wanting to rededicate their lives to Christ. No, they simply look for other selfish pleasures to fill the void in their lives. The consequences of cutting themselves off from Christ is that they will perish in hell because their faith in Christ withered and died like a branch cut off from the vine! The sad thing is that most people don’t even see it happening.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
You notice that Jesus is always the vine. He is not going anywhere! It is the branches that are in danger should they cut themselves off from Christ. Jesus remains always willing, able and ready to announce his marvelous gifts of forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation to everyone! As you hear that message, you will remain productive children of God! The consequences of rejecting Christ – eternal punishment - are a sad ending to a promising life!
Jesus explains the blessings of life in Christ this way: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Staying connected to Christ produces within the child of God a desire to talk to your Savior in prayer. Jesus urges us to ask him for anything we’d like! There is nothing too big, too profound, too insignificant, too personal to talk to your Savior about. “It will be given to you!” What a blessing! Jesus will give you anything you ask for as you pray while remaining in him. Of course, remaining in Jesus means praying according to God’s will. Christians want what Christ wants for us. So, when we pray our attitude is that which is expressed in the Lord’s prayer when we say, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If what we are asking for is not in harmony with God’s will, why would we want it? He knows better than we do what is in our best interest. The blessing of talking to Jesus in prayer is knowing that God will take our prayers and answer them in such a way that matches his will for us. We are always blessed in our prayer life because we are connected to Christ!
The blessings of life in Christ is that God wants you to be successful! “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Jesus wants you to be productive Christians. He wants you to “bear much fruit.” All of us here today join your family in wanting you to bring glory to God by making a difference in the world in which you live by your Christian conduct. Jesus said, “Show yourselves to be my disciples.” People are watching you. People will notice that you are one of Jesus’ disciples by the way you live your life. St. Paul once said, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” At the end of the day, Be yourself. Because what you are is fantastic! You are branches connected to Christ living life to the glory of God as naturally as fruit is growing from the vine.
You may already be connected to hundreds, maybe thousands of people through social media networks. None of those connections are as important as the one God has established with you through Jesus Christ your Savior. He has grafted you into Christ as a branch into a vine. The growing process is underway. The warning bell has been sounded. The blessings await you! Stay connected to Jesus and really live!