notre dame montreal

Bearing Fruit John 15

Sermon by The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley

Jesus said “Love each other as I have loved you.…I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last”

I could have a gentle lead in to this sermon by telling you a joke, or maybe a gardening illustration. But in the spirit of Jesus’ injunction to his followers which is crisp and simple, lets jump straight in and look at this phrase from today’s passage of scripture. “go and bear fruit--fruit that will last”

This small phrase, because it comes just after the Great Commandment “love each other, as I have loved you”, is often passed over. But it is hugely significant because it warns us that our love must have practical application. It must be central to the fabric of our lives. It is about what we do with the love we talk about so much as Christians. Love isn’t about misty feelings of benevolence towards your fellow humans. It isn’t just about reading the Bible and loving God, although naturally that isn’t bad! Being fruitful is Jesus’ challenge to us. Go and make a difference. Show me what being in my love means. Jesus is surely saying, if you are my disciples show it by bearing much fruit. So simple yet so challenging. Do something that matters. Something that will last.

The passage we have heard this morning comes directly after the passage on the True Vine , In that passage Jesus has warned that unfruitful branches will be cut off. I is actually a very stark image of what it is to fail to be a fruitful Christian. He uses the imagery of the vineyard to eerie effect. “If anyone dos not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up and burned….” I think that eloquently describes the loneliness and aimlessness of a life without the knowledge and love of God. I don’t interpret that to mean that our souls will burn in Hell, by the way, I think it describes being separated from the source of all Goodness by our own choice. God doesn’t want separation from us, but sometimes thorough sin, we distance ourselves from him.

Jesus makes it clear in this phrase “be fruitful” that being a passive admirer of his teachings is not enough. What are you going to do for God here on earth?

There was a comedy programme on television the other day in which a doctor apologised to one of the nurses about a mistake he had made. She replied “I don’t mind, but you had sure get your story straight before you meet Jesus”. So what’s your story? When you see Jesus, as you surely will, how are you going to account for yourself? What have you done, either for your fellow humans, Jesus’ other children, or for His Church ? It is a challenge to us as individual Christians but also to us as Churches: how can we better serve the Kingdom of God? There are churches which live only for themselves as safe little communities where everything stays the same and change is resisted, strangers are not welcomed. In that sort of situation the chapel or church becomes a kind of pleasant social club for the few. Nice though the people might be, lovely though the worship might be, are they truly obeying Jesus’ demand that Christians bear fruit? In the Partnership we have always striven to look outwards, risks have been taken, challenges have been accepted that the Kingdom might go forward. But the process goes on, we must keep trying to understand through prayer and careful thought what it is that Our Lord expects from us.

These happiness gurus, now popping up on television and in newspaper articles, say there is an important link between serving others and our own levels of happiness. And they attribute that to feelings of gratification at being altruistic, a kind of “I’m being good “ glow. But I think it is much more profound than that. I believe that when we obey Jesus’ commands to serve his kingdom and serve his children we are aligning ourselves with God’s purpose, matching in his footsteps as it were. And there is a rightness and spiritual beauty in doing this which makes us happy at a deeper level than anything we can have or buy.

Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic, had a “showing”, a vision which enlarged on this Bible passage. She describes seeing a gardener, toiling away to produce a rare and beautiful fruit for his master a great Lord. When it was fully grown, he took the fruit to the Lord who was seated in a wilderness but somehow the fruit transformed the wilderness, cold and stony into a beautiful rich landscape. This vision reminds us that our human labours have a heavenly dimension, what we do helps to bring closer the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth. The work we do, the fruit we bear, will not only transform the wasteland of this world but it will bring joy in Heaven. Amen