Got Fruit?

Sunday May 2, 2021, The Fifth Sunday of Easter (Cycle B)

The tie in between today’s readings: Alive on the Vine

Psalm 22:26-32, Acts 9:26-31, 1 John 3:18-24, John 15:1-8

Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. The Father is the vinedresser.  Every church goer needs to understand this dynamic of the Christian life in today’s reading in John 15:1-8. In Christ’s illustration, some branches are alive on the vine and grow fruit. The Father will bring circumstances (pruning) into their lives to increase their output. Other branches only have leaves. There are two reasons for this. Some are just stuck on by family or culture and are going through the motions of religion. Receiving sacraments, praying, volunteering, they fool everyone even themselves about their faith but, tragically, the life of Christ never gets past their heads to reach their hearts. Eventually, these branches will either leave altogether, or at Judgement Day they will learn that they were never of the Vine in the first place (Matt 7:22-23). Others fruitless ones are unaware of their calling in Christ. The Father will take these away, meaning to lift up from the ground, to make them more dependent on the Vine and get them producing because, after all, without Him we can do nothing. The overall goal here is to glorify God in our living and prayer life. So, if you are a fruitful branch, well done, keep abiding on the Vine and let the God life flow through you even more. For the rest, it might be a good time to go back to basics and learn how to get your grapes on, and maybe, if you’re one that’s thinking of leaving the Church…save your soul.

We can start off In today’s reading Psalm 22:26-32, the idea of eating and worshipping is repeated in vs 26 and 29. Sounds like Holy Communion, doesn’t it? Many come to the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ on a superficial level and remain on the outside looking in. You must see Him with the eyes of faith. An intimate relationship with the Lord in the Eucharist transports us from the pews into Christ’ passion. When Jesus died, we died, and the blood of Christ cleansed us from all of our sins. When Jesus rose, we rose to a new forgiven and eternal existence with God. Everything about Christianity revolves around the faith of the believer being in Christ duringthese once and for all events. By the same token, the power that places you by faith in Christ way back then is the same power that places Christ in you to live for Him here and now. But it’s not your power. Everything happens in the spiritual dimension. Salvation as well as the Christian life is a God thing. Ask for it and you shall receive. We in the Son, the Son in us, and believing faith confirms that it’s true.

If Jesus is the vine, the Holy Spirit is surely the sap. The fruit that we bear such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are from Him (Galatians 5:22-23). These characteristics should become more evident in our lives as we read our Bible, grow in God’s grace, and receive answers to prayers because we think like Him. It’s all about “Thy will be done”, after all. With this continued fellowship the Holy Spirit produces in us a “quiet knowing” of our abiding with Him. It’s all so very nice until we sin and let’s face it, it’s going happen. Then our communion with the Lord is broken and we feel like the stuff that people scrape off their shoes, even to the point of doubting our salvation at times. Our reading in 1 John 3:18-24 deals with this very real situation. To paraphrase John’s epistle, “OK, you sinned, you feel bad, and your heart is condemning you. God knows everything. He knows you love Him, and He loves you. Don’t dwell on it. Confess it. Work on avoiding it. Make it right if need be. Get back on track, knowing that you are forgiven in Christ and let’s grow some fruit.” 1 John 3:23-24 gives us a summary of the abiding and fruitfulness that we explored so far:

23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.  

Our reading in Acts 9:26-31 is an example of fruit in action. Paul comes to Jerusalem after his conversion on the Damascus road, but the Church, being suspicious, won’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. Enter Barnabas, who puts himself out there and vouches that Paul is the real deal. They trust Barnabas and let Paul preach the gospel openly in the city. This new Apostle is so effective that he gets death threats. Upon hearing this, the disciples send Paul away to Tarsus for his safety. The Church enjoys peace and grows in the fear and comfort of the Lord because, by the mighty hand of God, their greatest persecutor is now their born-again brother. Barnabas and Paul both show that there are risks in fruit bearing. When your time comes, trust in God, and take them.

Fruit bearing and abiding all comes down to a relationship with the Lord based on and motivated by love. This is God’s gift to you. Become one with Jesus. By faith die with Him, rise with Him, and live for Him. Join with Him on the deeper unseen level of the spirit.

Let it be that when we hear the words, “This is My body given for you. Do this in memory of Me.”

Let us answer, “This is my body that I give back. Never let me forget you.”

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