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Worship Series: Connected
Worship Theme: Connected to the Vine
- Flute Duet: Crown Him with Many Crowns
- You Are Mine
- CWS 739 Baptismal Waters Cover Me
- Senior Choir: Shepherd of My Heart
- By Faith
- My Confession of Faith
- In Christ Alone / Solid Rock
Message: Connected to the Vine
Pastor Jake Schram
It was a beautiful sunny day. The type where you can smell the grass in the cool summer breeze. It was the weekend and my friends and I were sitting at a local elementary school playground, enjoying each other’s company, joking about movies, and just having a good time. There were a couple basketball courts where we were hanging out. The hoops had chain nets that would reward a smooth shot with the sound of cha-ching. A squad of several guys were prepping for a tournament. They obviously knew what they were doing and had practiced together a lot. Eventually they challenged us to a game. My friends accepted without hesitation. Now, there is something you should know about my friends. They were terrible at basketball. I mean, they were really bad. They weren’t the worst athletes. They were just bad at basketball. They were the type of people who would take a shot and miss the hoop and backboard by about 10 feet as the ball rocket-shipped off the court. They knew that I played a lot of blacktop basketball though and even had earned the nickname UFO (unidentified flying object) because I was everywhere. And so it began: a contest for the ages. We started losing badly. But after some of the best basketball I’ve played in my life, we caught up. It was wonderful. I was shooting and blocking and stealing and rebounding and doing everything I could to help my team pull off the victory. But then it happened. I ran out of juice. I hadn’t eaten much over the last couple days and my body just decided it was done. I was out of power. And so I wasn’t much help anymore and we lost.
The disciples were on a team too. In our text today, Jesus warns them about running out of juice. He wants them to never lack power. He wanted them never to lose faith. But those things didn’t come from within the disciples. If they relied on themselves, they would fail. They would run out of power and fall away from the faith. Jesus instead wanted them to stay connected to him. He is the vine. Today, Jesus shows his disciples and us that he alone is the source of strength for his believing branches.
As recorded throughout the book of John, Jesus had given all these “I am” statements to help the disciples understand that he is the Messiah, the one to save all people. This day, Jesus gives his disciples one more “I am” statement. It is an analogy that they will almost certainly understand. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.[a] 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he is going to cut off. And he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will bear more fruit.”
Jesus begins by saying he is the vine. He is what all the branches will grow from. In other words, people can only grow in faith through him. The Father is the gardener. He wants us to have a living and vibrant faith. He doesn’t want us to be dead branches with a dead faith. No one can produce good fruit, works that are good in God’s eyes without faith. But the Father is doing so many things to make sure that we, the branches, do bear fruit.
Now, any of you green-thumb gardeners know you have to do things for your plants to grow healthy and strong. How many of you here have a garden or work with a garden? What kinds of things do you have to do to take care of your plants? Right. All those things are necessary in order for the plants to thrive. For people to thrive God needs to take care of us too. He baptizes us and gives us his Word to bring us to faith and strengthen that faith. He sent his Son to live the perfect life we couldn’t. He died for our sins. And the Father connected us, the branches, to Jesus, the vine, so we continue to get power for our eternal wellbeing through faith. We see the Father gardener has already done this. Verse 3 tells us “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” The Word of God and the great message of Jesus has made us clean. “Remain in me, and I am going to remain in you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Likewise, you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
If you planted an apple tree for the purposes of getting apples, you’d be pretty upset if it never bore fruit, right? God has planted us to bear fruits of righteousness. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Because Jesus has made us clean in him, he enables us to do these things. Apart from him nothing can be good in God’s eyes. We can’t bear fruit unless we remain in Jesus.
Ok. Let me give you an example. Remember Peter from the twelve disciples. On the same day as our text took place, Peter said he would never abandon Jesus, never deny him. Jesus would be arrested and guess what Peter did? He thought he could do it on his own, but he abandoned Jesus. He denied him. Jesus would later reconnect Peter to himself like a branch to the vine, but Peter did not, could not bear any fruit apart from Jesus. It didn’t happen. We are just like Peter. When we are not connected to Jesus, we cannot produce fruit.
The Bible makes it really simple. There are only two positions to take. Either you remain in Jesus and are able to produce fruit or you are not connected and you cannot produce fruit. And whether you are connected to Jesus affects your life in this world and the next. Verses 5-8 show us this.
5 “I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him is the one who bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers. Such branches are gathered, 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 done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you continue to bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”
There’s a bigger problem to concern ourselves with than not being able to bear fruit because bearing good works will come naturally when we are connected to Jesus. The problem is what happens to the branches when they are disconnected to Jesus. In the end the Father will cut off every person that does not have faith. They are thrown into the fire and burned, because a person apart from Jesus is like a withered, dried out, and dead branch, worthy only for the fires of hell. Jesus gives us a warning. And this is for the confirmands today too. So many times, after confirmation day, I never see the kids confirmed again. I hope that most are still attached to God’s Word and being made alive, but I have the feeling that a lot do not spend any time hearing or reading or talking about God’s Word whatsoever. And without knowing it, so many faiths wither and die. Without Jesus in your life, your faith will wither and die too. “Wait Pastor, you can’t say that? On Confirmation day you need to be positive.” I know. And I don’t tell this to you to try and scare you into Christianity or to get all preachy and negative on you. Hell is a reality for those not connected to our Savior. But I want you to have joy. Not joy for just one day (Confirmation day), but joy for the rest of your life. That joy is connected to the vine. It’s connected to Jesus.
Let’s walk you through your life. You confirmands are like 14 years old, right? Maybe church doesn’t mean a whole lot to you because Catechism class was boring for you. But eternal life will not be. And being connected to the vine will be important at every point of your life. When you are 17 and maybe you have your first really difficult break up. You thought you were going to be together forever. And it hurts so bad you can barely stand it. You know where you can turn to for love and strength? The vine. You are 22. College exams are putting your nerves to the breaking point and your stress is at an all-time high. Whether you do well or not, you know you are still connected to someone who loves you the same either way. The vine. You are 28. You’ve just gotten married to someone who seems right for you. There is someone there to support that marriage and help it grow. Someone who can make it thrive. The vine. You are 36. Your three kids are driving you nuts and your spouse is not as perfect as you thought he/she was. There is solace in the vine. You are 50. You are starting to look back on the prime of your life with regrets, wondering if you should have done something different or something more. But you are also starting to be able to see how God had his hand guiding you throughout your life and you look forward confidently knowing that everything will be alright. Because you are attached to the vine. You are 65. Your knees hurt. Your back hurts. Your life hurts. But you have someone who will help you endure these new pains. The vine. You are 80. Your friends and siblings are starting to pass away. And while you miss them, because you shared the Word with them you know they are in eternal bliss. You helped them be connected to the vine. You are 95. Your time on earth is nearly done, but you have no fear. You know you are going to heaven because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. You have remained in his power and grace because you are connected to the vine and always will be. Do you see how this can be such a beautiful thing? Knowing the happily ever after and joy that comes from faith in a Savior who saves. All this comes from being connected to the vine.
When you remain connected to God and his word, he always has your best interests at heart. That’s why you can move mountains with faith as small as a mustard seed, because he’s the one moving them. That’s why we can be confident in what we ask for in God’s name. Because God really gives us exactly what we need. And it will get you through whatever rough times you go through in life to bring you into an eternity of paradise.
When I was young, my parents let me pick out one thing to plant and watch it grow. I picked a sunflower and I was so excited. I planted the seeds. I watered the sunflower. I was constantly checking the sunflower and making sure it grew healthy and strong. One day, a storm came and I looked out the window to check on my sunflower. As I was staring at it a bolt of lightning came and either struck the plant or nearby. When the light cleared, my poor flower was cracked open and bent over. The next day I saw the damage and the flower looked pretty hopeless, but it was still connected to the vine. And my sunflower grew. But instead of just one flower, where it had split it grew three flowers and blossomed into something more beautiful than I had hoped for in the first place.
You are that flower. There will be lightning bolts of trouble that hit your life and you may wonder what God is doing. But as long as you stay connected to the vine, you’ll keep growing and God will take care of you and prune you so that you blossom in your faith. Brothers and sisters, marvel through faith at the wonderful promises God works for you and works through you all because you are connected to the vine. Amen.