Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Sermon: John 15:1-17 Connected to Jesus

You might have noticed something extra that I’ve got with my robes tonight. Just sticking out the top of my cassock are my earphones! Now what are earphones used for? They’re for listening music. It’s great. You can be on the bus or sitting in the middle of a big crowd of people, and you can enjoy your favourite music - whether that’s One Direction or Daniel O’Donnell or anyone in between! There’s just one problem... when I put them in my ears, I can’t hear anything. What’s wrong? They’re not connected. If this end isn’t connected into the ipod, then I won’t hear any music.

Or just think of your morning routine. If you’re not quite awake, you’re trying to get ready and wondering why the hairdryer or the toaster won’t work - they need to be plugged in. They need a connection with the power source to make them work; to do what they were made to do.

That’s what Jesus was telling us in our reading tonight. But rather than talk about earphones or hairdryers, Jesus uses another picture. But before we get to that, a little quiz. What country do you identify with the thistle? (Scotland). The shamrock? (Ireland) The maple leaf? (Canada). The fern? (New Zealand). The vine?

The vine was the national symbol of Israel. We heard of it in our first reading where God through Isaiah sings the song of his vineyard. He’s talking about his people. Now, here in John 15, Jesus says ‘I am the true vine.’

Whenever I was growing up, our school always had its harvest service in my church. After the school harvest, everything was cleared up and distributed to the elderly people in the town. But what happened was that during the school service, some of the pupils would take an apple from the window sill, take a big bite out of it, and then put it back, as if it was fine. I didn’t want to get into trouble with your new rector tonight, so I brought along my own grapes!

So where did these grapes come from? How did they grow? They don’t have a factory making grapes like these - the branch has to be connected to the vine. It needs the sap, the power to produce the fruit. In the same way, Jesus says to his disciples: ‘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.’ (John 15:4)

We need the power of Jesus to live as Christians. If we’re not connected to him, we won’t be able to do anything. That’s why Jesus tells us to remain in him - to rest in him, to abide in him, to be joined with him at all times. It’s only by this that we can produce fruit.

Now, here’s a spot the difference for you. What’s the difference between an apple tree and a Christmas tree? (By the way, it’s only 86 days to Christmas and Tesco already have their seasonal stock in). A Christmas tree might look very nice with lights and baubles and tinsel and whatever else you put on a Christmas tree, but they have to be hung on it. The Christmas tree doesn’t produce all those things itself. The apple tree produces its own fruit.

But which are we like? Sometimes it can be very easy to come along to church or to SNATCH, to look good, to seem to be a Christian with a great outward appearance, looking nice and respectable. Or are we producing the fruit of being a Christian - which we’ll see in a moment.

So that’s the basic point Jesus wants us to get tonight - we need to be connected to Jesus. It’s more important than being connected with 5000 friends on Facebook.

But Jesus goes on to show two ways in which being connected to him will impact our life. Here’s the first one: ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.’ (John 15:7-8)

So how does that sound? Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. Whatever you wish. It sounds a bit like a genie and a magic lamp, doesn’t it? Three friends were on a desert island when they found a lamp. The genie each gave them one wish. The first wished he was in Paris and he disappeared. The second wished he was in Hollywood and he disappeared. The third realised how lonely he was and wished his friends could come back...

So is Jesus saying that we can have whatever we want? Could we go down to the car park to find our cars have been changed into Ferraris or Porsches? But we’ve missed out the first part of the sentence. ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you...’ It’s when we’re connected to Jesus, as his words remain in us, then we can ask whatever we wish and we’ll receive it. It’s not asking for things you want selfishly, rather, it’s about asking for the things Jesus wants because they are the things we want as well. When we’re connected to Jesus, we’ll see answered prayers.

There’s one more effect. Have you ever seen a domino display? You need a steady hand to set it up. One domino moves the next and on and on... We see something the same here as Jesus talks about love. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.’ (John 15:9) The Father loves the Son, who loves us, and who do we pass it on to? ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’

These words were said in the upper room, just hours before Jesus went to the cross. It was there that he demonstrated the greatest love of all: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ (14) It is as we receive his love - as we see just what Jesus did for us that we are connected to him. Never wander from the love of Jesus. His love is the power that flows from him to us. His love will make us fruitful, as we become more like Jesus.

Jesus commands us to love one another. That’s because it isn’t easy. We’re all different, it takes the love of God to overflow in our hearts to each other as the fruit of the Spirit grows.

One of the problems of buying fruit is that sometimes it goes off quickly. It isn’t all eaten and it goes bad. My banana wouldn’t make it into a harvest display. It’s past its best. It’s only good for the compost heap. But the fruit that we produce when we’re connected to Jesus endures for ever: ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.’

Are you connected to Jesus? Perhaps you realise that you’re disconnected, far from him. You need to be plugged in, grafted on. Come to him tonight. Look at the cross, and discover his great love for you, to lay down his life for you.

But maybe you are a Christian. Stay connected. Return again to the cross, and let the love of Jesus flood your heart and overflow - as you pray like Jesus, and love like Jesus, producing spiritual fruit that will last forever.

This sermon was preached at the Harvest Thanksgiving in Colebrooke Church, Aghalurcher Parish on Sunday 29th September 2013

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