Easter 5 Jesus the True Vine 2012
Sermon preached by Rev Dr Sam Cappleman
The vine was often used as a symbol of Israel on the Old Testament, so when Jesus starts talking about being the true vine it was clear what He was inferring.
The old vine of Israel had so often failed to yield fruit that truly reflected God’s transformational power on the earth.
Jesus as the true vine, is the fulfilment of God’s purpose, the fulfilment of the promise of God where Israel had fallen short.
In the old world image of the vine, the cleansing and the pruning came through the words and ritual of the law, and the adherence to its precepts.
In the new image of the vine, the cleansing would be much more far reaching and eternally transformational through the acceptance of the living word who had come to dwell among us.
Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine’, the source of new life. John starts off his gospel with the miracle of Cana in Galilee and explains that this is the first and overarching sign. Water into wine. The stuff of every day life transformed into wine.
Turing water into grapes which ultimately become wine is the propose of the vine. Today’s gospel reading is water into wine Part II.
God, as the gardener, Jesus says, will cut of the bits of the vine that are unfruitful – the old ways of doing things which have not led to God’s promises being fulfilled.
But if God is cutting off the bits of the vine which are unfruitful, He is pruning and cleansing the bit of the vine that are bearing fruit. They are to remain in the vine, the source of the new life.
Perhaps the Jews had become disconnected from the real purpose of God, those who are connected though the true vine are to remain connected – so that they don’t suffer the same fate.
It’s not that being cut off or being disconnected is a punishment, it’s a natural outcome of being disconnected. Like a power tool that’s no longer connected to the mains or its battery has gone flat.
It’s an interesting image because we are all often focused on our activities as a demonstration and outworking of our faith. And so they are. But what Jesus is doing is making the explicit link between our being and our doing.
The work used for remain can also mean rest, like a baby in its parents arms. Not struggling (at least not all the time!) but resting, secure in the love and support it receives.
And as we rest and remain in God’s love through Jesus, so we are filled with the watery sap of the vine, the lifeblood, the characteristic nature of the vine itself, fills us and our natures and desires become that of the vine itself too.
Our doing becomes not a separate and distinct action but a logical and seamless outworking of being in the vine and our being and doing become one.
As we remain in Jesus and allow Him, through His words to remain is us then we are told we can ask whatever we wish, because ultimately when we are completely filled by Him, it will be His wish too.
And as we ask, and have our requests answered, so we bear fruit. It’s an outcome of remaining in Jesus, not an end in itself.
Sometimes we feel as if our prayers are never answered, are falling on deaf ears, what then. Is it because we are not remaining in Jesus? Have we been cut off?
Not in the least. Out wills become completely aligned to God’s when we become perfect, as He is. Until then its bound to be more hit and miss.
We all know that when we plant a fruit bush it can take a few years before it gets established in its new location begins really bearing fruit.
God calls us to first, remain in Him, and as a result, bear fruit.
As we see in the reading from Acts, that can sometimes take us in unexpected directions. Philip did not know what he would find when he set off to Gaza but the result led to the founding of the Ethiopian church.
We should not confuse ‘remaining’ with ‘inactivity’ – it might mean just the opposite if we are to bear the fruit Christ has in store for us.