Jesus The Vine Sunday May 2nd 2021
Our Pastor Julie Newitt prepared this service which was delivered by the Church Council on Sunday morning as she was recovering from eye surgery. We wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to her being back in church soon.
The message is relevant to all in our community- churchgoer or not and we hope you will take from it comfort and hope and a sense of purpose to help your fellow human beings in the future in whatever way you can.
Opening words John 15:4
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Hymn 857 I, The lord of sea and sky
We gather here, O Lord, for you, the vine, to nourish us. May we, the branches, draw our strength from you, and grow in harmony, unity and love. May we find nourishment through our rootedness in the life, teachings and love of Christ. Receive the fruits of our worship and be glorified. Amen.
Eternal God, we come as one and we come together, to draw from the source of your life-giving love, to reconnect with one another and with you, to listen to your word, to meet you in prayer and praise, and to learn and grow as your faithful disciples – in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Lord Jesus, we pray that during the service this morning you might open our eyes and our ears and our hearts help us to understand that we need to be close to you. May this morning we feel that sense of your presence and may we during the coming week try and remain close to you every single day in everything we say and everything we do
Bible readings Acts 8.26-40; Psalm 22.25-31; 1 John 4.7-21; John 15.1-8
Hymn 792 You are the vine
This weekend is a bank holiday weekend and for many people it will be an opportunity to get out into the garden, the garden which has begun to sprout almost magically. The trees at the top of our garden have come out in beautiful pink flowers over the last week, the other night when I was doing the Bible study the sun was shining on those trees it was beautiful. Doesn’t it almost seem as if the world is waking up, it's coming to life. Plants that had laid dormant in the darkness and the coldness of winter suddenly are springing to life with the sun and the rain and the warmth of spring.
Sometimes the magic of all this we overlook, plants, flowers, trees they only grow because they are rooted deep and firm in the soil. It is this connection that enables them to grow, to expand, to show all of their beauty and to bear fruit.
Now if we turn our attention to John 15 and Jesus’ beautiful words in this particular passage, He also is talking about plants, to be specific the Vine. The Vine would have been very commonplace in the time of Jesus and so, as always, He uses something which the people would be familiar with to explain a very important concept and truth about Himself. The Vine will only grow when it is connected to the core the centre of it and from the centre of the Vine, branches will leap out, branches that will bear fruit, any branch which does not bear fruit will be cut off, the branches that do bear fruit will be pruned so that they can become even more productive.
Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches, what is Jesus saying about our relationship with Him?
Just as a branch or a flower or a bud cannot survive without being attached to the main flower or root, so it is that each branch will not be able to survive and grow unless it is attached to the Vine, the root. In order for us to be fruitful and productive we need to be attached to Jesus. There is no doubt that when we are attached to Jesus, we will be fruitful and multiply, this means we will go out spread the word and spread the love of Jesus wherever we might be.
If we consider the reading of the Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.In this passage the eunuch was reading from the book of Isaiah, he was struggling to understand the meaning of the words which he found there. The passage he was reading was from Isaiah chapter 53 about the suffering servant. The eunuch did not understand who the suffering servant was, until Philip, who was magically transported from one place to be beside the chariot of the eunuch, heard him reading this word. Philip walked alongside him and explained to him who the suffering servant was, he told him about Jesus, who had been killed and who had been raised to life again and was alive forever and ever. The eunuch immediately wanted to be baptised, he felt at one with God. Philip obviously obliged and so when they came to some water the eunuch was baptised. He then went back on his way to Ethiopia, where we assume he explained to so many people who Jesus was. The first missionary in Africa, attached to Jesus he bore fruit. Phillip likewise attached to Jesus bore fruit.
The passage that we have read from 1 John speaks about God being love and ultimately this is the fruit that we have to bear, we have to show God’s love to the world. We cannot love God, the passage says, and not like our fellow human beings, if we love God then we will love our fellow human beings. We will share in their joys, their sorrows, their happiness, their worries and their concerns. This is where we should be sitting, with those people and showing God’s love. It is almost as if there's so much love in God, He's filtered it down to us and it just has to flow out of us into the world. We have to learn how to love one another as God loves us. In his conversation with the disciples at the last supper they were the words He used ‘love one another as I have loved you’. This then is the fruit we will bear if we remain attached and rooted to Jesus.
Here are two examples that I came across when I was preparing for this service of the ways in which we can show love and support. Showing the love of God in the worst of situations.
1. In October 2013, a boat carrying over 500 refugees fleeing from persecution in Eritrea and Somalia sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa, near Tunisia. Francesco Tuccio, a carpenter living on the island, met some of the survivors in church and made each of them a cross out of the wreckage from their boat. Pope Francis asked Francesco to make him a cross to carry at a memorial service. He also made one for the British Museum. Francesco saw his crosses as symbols of hope and love.
A community that stays connected to Christ is like Jesus’ true vine, held by love strong enough to embrace the world.
2. A week into 2020’s coronavirus lockdown, a pack arrived through the letterbox of every house in the street. It included a pair of red and green ‘Community Lookout’ cards for displaying in front windows: ‘green’ where no help was needed; ‘red’ for help with shopping, collecting prescriptions or dog walking. The pack came from a local group that formed to help the neighbourhood stay strong. ‘We hope that if any good comes out of this troubling period, then we’ll all get to know each other a little better.’
Everyday support helps a neighbourhood stay connected in trying times, like the flesh and blood love of Christ sustaining his vine.
The question for us is how do we remain close to Jesus in order that we too can bear fruit?
Jesus urged us to remain connected to him – part of the vine – and we do that through prayer. But not just prayer for ourselves and our concerns as that would be selfish, inward-looking. Remain connected, he said, so that you ‘bear much fruit’ and become his disciples. Following his command and his example, we are to be interested in the cares and concerns of others, spreading the good news by word and by example. Praying for those we meet and those we simply pass by, for those who welcome us and those who reject us.We just need to be in the world, to respond to those whom we meet with love, and to offer support and help wherever we can. This Is us doing the work of Jesus in the world. Our hearts will only ever be moved to do this if we are connected to Jesus.
So today I urge you to find time each day to be with Jesus, to talk to Him, to listen for His voice, to spend time with Him as you would a friend. Ask Him to hold you and keep you close and feed you every day, so that you will bear fruit and feed others.
I would like to end by sharing with you the following reflection.
I am the vine. I am your origin, your nutrients, your mainstay. Root yourself in me. Let yourself be fed. Let yourself grow…closer and deeper. And in the growing, allow the pruning. Allow me to prune, to trim, to cut away your broken branches, your fruitless parts, your strivings, branches that are going to seed. And watch and wait. Wait for the new shoots. Wait for the new fruits to bud slowly and open gently. Turn to my warmth, and let your fruits open in my glory.
Hymn Hold on to Me
Prayers of Intercession
God of comfort, as India faces the ravages of corona virus we pray for some relief for their suffering. May those in this world who have an excess of medicine and oxygen be moved to generosity and may those who face great anguish find some measure of comfort. Even as our situation with the virus changes here we are mindful of the many families across this country who are still trying to come to terms with the death of a loved one. We pray for everyone struggling with the pain of loss. Bring solace to them, bring people who can offer words and actions that sooth, and help all those who grieve to find small shoots of hope for the future.
God of comfort, listen to our prayer.
God of justice, it is with dismay that we read that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces a further year in imprisonment. Thank you for those who are working for justice and trying to gain her freedom, please give them energy and focus as they try to deal with the next phase of this complex case. We pray also for Nazanin’s family, her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella. It’s very difficult to imagine what they are experiencing but we ask for your mercy, peace and love to surround and support them.
God of justice, listen to our prayer.
God of truth, the recent tension in parliament and the complications around truth and honesty can be difficult for us to process. We pray for a spirit of openness and fairness for those elected to govern us. Renew their vision for their role in society and bring people into the centre of government who have a spirit of service and integrity. Help those who make decisions to see the true plight of the poorest and most disadvantage in our society and look for that will bring about deep and lasting change.
God of truth, listen to our prayer.
God of community, we acknowledge the wide variety of feelings within our local communities prompted by the change to the lock down. From those who are exhilarated by trips to the hairdressers or the pub, to some who remain anxious about the possibility of a new surge, may we find understanding and empathy for one another. Give us all the ability to think in terms of the whole community not just about ourselves and help us to keep our eyes wide open to truly see how those around us are coping as things change.
God of community, listen to our prayer.
God of hope, as the spring days bring new hopefulness may we not forget those for whom this past year has been particularly devastating. Thank you for the work the church has undertaken in order to feed, comfort and intercede for those in need, but give us the patience and endurance needed to continue the work. Prevent us from becoming fatigued or bored by the endless cycle of need we have to respond to, rather reenergise us. Inspire and envision us for new ways we can bring the kingdom of heaven to earth and hope to the people in it.
God of hope, listen to our prayer.
God of compassion,
with the summer term in motion and children enjoying being back in school we are particularly mindful of those in year 11 and year 13. Many are facing multiple tests and assessments unsure about what results will form their final grades. As they struggle to revise, fill the gaps they have missed, and reconcile their damaged school experience may they be confident they will get the grades they deserve. Bring calmness to this final part of the school year and some sense of closure as many of them transition to new stages of life and learning.
We are equally conscious of the university students continuing to learn remotely until May. Please guard their mental health. Guard them against disappointment and despair and help the institutions they are part of to find meaningful ways for them to connect with one another and engage with the subjects are studying.
God of compassion, listen to our prayer.
God of love, thank you that we are all connected to you our true vine. When we feel disconnected from our communities, families or even ourselves help us to picture this image of the vine and feel rooted in you and your comfort, justice, truth, community, hope and compassion.
God of love, listen to our prayer. Amen.
Prayers for those on our prayer list including Julie
We are thankful for medical advances and technolgogy bringing us not only vaccines and medicines but also replacement joint surgery and cataract surgery which allow us to live pain free and productive lives into our old age. We also know that several people on our prayer list are struggling with old age and increasing infirmity requiring others to care for them and preventing them from getting out of their houses. May they know your comforting presence.
Hymn 428 Lord for the years
Closing Music: A new commandment