Preached on 3 May 2015 at St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church, Tacoma
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Home. What does that word bring to mind? What makes a home more than just a place to eat, sleep, shower, and keep your stuff?
Now, I realize that for many people, that word has a lot of baggage. Where they live, the place they call home may not inspire good feelings. So let’s think, now about what you might consider your ideal home; and I’m not talking about the floor plan or the furnishings.
What would it be like? I think of home as a place of safety, perhaps even a refuge from the stress and even dangers of the world. It’s a place where you are loved, not judged or criticized; a place where you can be comfortable just being yourself. A place where the people care for one another. A place to pursue your dreams, your passions. A place where you experience that peace that passes understanding.
This week, I heard someone define “Abiding” as being deeply home. It is less about a place and more about a state of mind, a way of being, a condition of your soul. It’s about being fully alive, fully free to know and to become the one whom God created you to be alongside your sisters and brothers in Christ who are also fully alive and fully free to become whom God created them to be – even while living in the wilderness of this crazy, broken world.
Today, we hear about identity and discipleship in the writings of John. This is about what comes after “Alleluia, Christ is risen! Now what?”
It’s about Resurrection life.
The gospel and the letter of John are both written by the same person – most likely the apostle, John or his disciples. They were written about the same time near the end of the first century.
In the gospel, we hear Jesus talking to his disciples on the last evening, the last hours before his arrest. He uses the metaphor of a vine to talk about the relationship between him and those who would be his disciples, even after he is gone. Comparing this relationship to the connection between the vine and the branch, he tells his disciples to “abide in me as I abide in you.”
Now think about that idea of abiding as being deeply home. Imagine being deeply home in Christ and Jesus being deeply home within us. This is about identity. We find our identity at home in Christ. Imagine God as the vinegrower caring for and nurturing us in that relationship and in our lives so that we will be fruitful.
When you think of our lives bearing fruit, what do you think of? What would it look like for this community to bear good fruit? Does it make you think of yet another task to add to your already too-full schedule, along with things like exercise or get more sleep?
If we stay with the vine metaphor, what if we were to think of the fruit of our lives as not something that we produce through our own action and will, but rather as evidence of a healthy vine? I used to grow raspberries in my backyard. Sometimes the berries were sweet and sometimes they were tart. Then one day someone told me that the secret for sweet berries was to make sure the vines got plenty of water.
So, if we find we are producing tart fruit, the answer is not to try harder to produce sweet fruit on our own. Remember, Jesus said the branch can produce nothing on its own without the vine. Rather, perhaps we should attend to the vine. Has it become dry and cracked? Does it need more water?
Are we abiding in Jesus and making room for him to abide in us? Is Jesus where we are deeply home? Or do we just stop by to catch a quick shower and grab a bite to eat before heading out to our next activity?
Is he the one in whom we live and move and have our being?
In the first letter of John, the author systematically outlines what it means to walk in the light; to live as a child of God, and finally, in the passage we heard this morning, he reminds us that God is the source of love. We love because God first loved us. Those who love, abide in God and God abides in them. There is that word, abiding again. Love is the fruit and the vine and the water. And God is the source of that love.
Walking in the light, living as a child of God, loving God and loving our neighbors. That’s what it is to be a disciple
Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. God is the vinegrower. God’s love is the fruit and the water, and the nutrients.
May we always be deeply home in Christ that the fruit of our lives may be as sweet as honey; as honey in the comb.