+ A sermon preached for Easter 5B at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Chicago, IL on May 2 & 3, 2015 +
Texts: 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8
Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I hate goodbyes. I doubt anyone actually likes goodbyes, but I know I’m just not very good at them. Goodbyes force us to break connections with people we love. This dislike isn’t just for big goodbyes either. When my extended family gets together, we often say goodbye and then talk for another fifteen minutes. My husband, Ryan, can tell you a story of his first experience with my family’s goodbyes. We were at my aunt’s house talking with her and my cousins. When it was time to leave, we said goodbye and Ryan rightly thought we were leaving. Well, we talked a little more, said goodbye, and then repeated this process all over again. It took us at least an hour from when we said the first goodbye until we finally walked out the door.
As you may know, this is my last Sunday with you all as an official Ministry in Context student. This summer Ryan and I will be moving to Minnesota for a year-long internship before coming back to LSTC for my senior year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for this past year. The love and support that I have received from Holy Trinity has been phenomenal. This church will always have a very special place in my heart that I never want to forget.
Goodbyes mean change, a loss of something. They mean realities that fade to memories. They mean a cutting of connections. Technology and social media have allowed us to retain or reestablish some of these links in recent years. Rather than having to write letters or make phone calls, Facebook can tell us how often our friends play Candy Crush and Instagram will show us pictures of the kinda weird looking food that they made for dinner. Emails can give us updates from loved ones or show what their chosen political topic of the week may be. While it can be good to have these connections, sometimes we long for something a little…deeper.
Our gospel for today comes from what has been called the farewell discourse in John. Jesus spends four chapters saying goodbye to his disciples! “I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus says. Abide in me. Now, I don’t think Jesus was talking about the video-sharing app, Vine, but I’m sure he would have made some great vines. Can you imagine a 6 second clip of Jesus walking on water? That would have to go viral. No, Jesus is talking about an actual vine plant, like a grape vine. A plant where each of the branches are interconnected through a weaving web of life that shares nutrients, resources and support. Abide in me, because “I am the vine, you are the branches.” We are not individual plants trying to make it on our own, but we are intimately connected to Christ and to each other. We abide in Jesus the vine. Abide is basically a biblical word for being connected to. By abiding in Jesus, we are connected to him. The Epistle of First John says to abide in Jesus is to abide in God’s perfect love. Love is what unites us in Christ and to each other.
Before graduating from college, a few friends and I wanted to have an event where we could celebrate our time together and the times ahead. We decided that we would go wine tasting at a local vineyard. I went to college in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. If any of you know about the Willamette Valley, let alone how to pronounce it, there’s a good chance it’s because of the wine that is made there. The valley is said to make some of the world’s best pinot noir. On that day, the landscape was amazing. It was a sunny afternoon with distant mountains serving as a backdrop for the rolling hills, green with the vines that produced the grapes we were drinking. We had an afternoon of laughter and joy mixed with some sadness as we were saying goodbye to our college years and to each other. We were each about to embark on uncertain futures by paths as yet untrodden. Yet we knew that our friendships would endure, that our experiences and memories would not fade. We would continue to share in our love for each other.
Abide in me, Jesus says. We, who are a many and diverse people, are part of one being in Christ. Whether we be young or old, rich or poor, whatever the color of our skin, whomever we love, whatever our gender identity, we are interconnected in the one vine. Rather than trying to survive on our own as individual plants, we are able to grow stronger together in community. Our seemingly divergent selves are united in the unifying love of God. The love of God which we are called to share with all of our siblings around us.
Abide in me, Jesus says. So, what does that mean? It means that you and I are connected in ways deeper than Facebook. We are called to share each others burdens, support each other, and show God’s love for each other. This means that we are connected to our siblings outside of this building as well. We are connected to our fellow Christians in Chicago and we are connected to our siblings living on the streets. We are connected to the whole ELCA and we are connected to the people of Baltimore – protesters and police officers. We are connected to the church universal and to those affected by the earthquake in Nepal. We are called to share Christ’s love for all these people and more, because Christ has loved us and grafted us onto the one vine.
Where do you see our interconnectedness? Where do you see the unifying love of God in the world? I have an idea. I want to try something a little different. This week, I want you to be mindful of our connections with our siblings in Christ and let me know what you see. Maybe you’ll see someone at work being nice to a coworker. Maybe you’ll see someone feeding a hungry person on the street. Maybe it will be a picture of people who love and support each other. In fact, I’m going to take a picture of this assembly so I can always feel connected to you all. Post pictures to the Holy Trinity Facebook page or Twitter account. Send me an email. Talk to me during after worship. Look for where you see the one connecting vine or the love of God in action. Where are you called to share God’s love this week?
Siblings in Christ, though I am sad to be leaving you, I know that we will remain connected in ways deeper than Facebook. We have been grafted onto the living vine that is Jesus Christ. We are nourished by the fruit of the vine at this table. We will continue to grow together even though miles will separate us. As we are called to abide in God’s love for us and share that love with the world, may the peace and love of God, which passes all of our understanding, keep us truly connected to each other in Christ, the true vine.
2 thoughts on “The Connection to Christ and to Our Neighbors”
This s a phenomenal message. Well done.