Staying on the Vine

“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.”
(John 15:5)

I have a knee jerk reaction whenever I hear someone try to succinctly state what the Christian life is all about.  Because we are talking about life, any description cannot be succinct.  Any attempt to summarize the Christian faith and life will inevitably leave something out.  Given the nature of this brief, hastily written, belated midweek message, I know I will omit a thing or two as well, that’s why I keep writing week after week.

Still, in preparation for my sermon this week on Matthew 21:18-22, the story of Jesus cursing the barren fig tree, my mind has been racing around the idea of how the Christian life is about being fruitful.  The fig tree represented Israel.  The tree’s show of fullness and health only masked it’s emptiness; there was no fruit to be found.  Israel’s pomp and hyper-religious production only masked it’s emptiness; they failed to recognize their King, they had turned a house of prayer into a marketplace and den of thieves.  What had been meant to be a light for the world had become a Sun-Tan salon for the spiritually superior, with the ensuing cancer eating away at the soul of the nation.

Those who are called God’s people are meant to be fruitful; to be a blessing to the nations, to be the light of world, the salt of the earth.  This was Israel’s calling, and the fig tree stood as a symbol, a parable, of the curse that would come because of their fruitlessness.

The message serves as a warning to the Church today.  Are we fruitful?  Is the evidence of God’s Spirit working among us showing forth in a growing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – showing in the fellowship of the congregation and in the individual lives of its members?

This isn’t a call to work harder at being a better Christian.  The Pharisees and Priests in Israel, the “religiously serious” had a pretty good handle on how to work harder at doing right by God – and Jesus called them whitewashed tombs.

No, the answer to fruitfulness in the Christian life is not doing more stuff.  And here’s where I might narrow the focus a bit:

The purpose of the Christian life is not in the doing, it is in the being.  Christ did not come so that we could be better people, so that we could have the encouragement to try harder, or so that we could have a better example of how to live.

No.  Christ came to make us a new creation, to cover our brokenness with his perfection, so that our lives would become lives of thanksgiving and praise to God for such a gift of salvation.  The fruitfulness that Christ is looking for in the life of His church, in the lives of His disciples, is not the product of harder effort, but of true fellowship with him.

This is what Jesus is getting at in our reading from John.   We are branches grafted into the vine.  Our strength, our fruitfulness, does not come from the branch, from ourselves, but from the vine which is our source of life.  When we are connected, fellowshipping, in union with Christ, our lives will bear the natural consequence of that union: fruitfulness.  When we are absent from Christ, when we fail to listen and obey His word, when prayer and fellowship with Christ is forsaken, then we will cease to bear fruit.

Fruitfulness is the natural consequence of faithfulness to Christ.

We have some friends who like to burn scented candles in their homes.  When you go to visit, the aroma of their candles permeate and saturate your being.  When you leave, you carry that aroma with you.

So it is with Christ.  The beautiful aroma of sweet fellowship with Christ permeate and saturates your life, until everything you do is an overflowing of that fellowship, and comes forth like fruit from the vine.

May your fellowship with Christ be seen in the fruitfulness of your life.

SDG

Saving Daylight

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”
(Revelation 21:23 ESV)

Daylight Savings has ended, and the long dark nights of winter are upon us.  Last week, late afternoons in my office I could still see the bright and joyful light of the sun pouring through my colored glass office windows.  Now, all I see is a grim grey darkness.  Times like these I begin to wish for snow again, if just to brighten up the landscape.

I get the whole idea behind Daylight Savings – in an industrial age the shifting of time allowed for greater productivity.  What I always find amazing is the way we talk about the time change.  We say we lose or gain an hour.  We complain about how dark it gets, and how early it gets dark.  We say the days are shorter, when technically, it’s just the “day-time,” we still have 24 hours in the day.  It’s almost as though each year we forget that this all happened the year before, and the year before that, and so on.

Days like this I am reminded of John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21.  There, as the city of God descends out of heaven from God, we find the perfect city, the dwelling place of God with His people.  We are told in verses 21 and 22, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”  What a vision.  No temple.  There’s no place you’ll have to go to meet with God, for we will be in His presence, we will see the Lord face to face.  There will be no need for the sun or the moon.  They may still exist, but they will pale in comparison to the radiant glory of God and the Lamb. 

It will be a restoration of creation.  Remember back in Genesis 1, on the first day of creation God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, but it wasn’t until day 4 that God created the sun and the moon and the stars in the heavens.  Before there was a sun, there was the Son, who is the light of the world (John 8:12).  When Christ returns, and God’s Kingdom is fully realized in all its glory and wonder, the light of His glory shall shine on us, and we will never walk in darkness again.

Now that will be a Daylight Saving.

SDG