Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)

May 6, 2012

Text: John 15:1-8

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

God wants us to be fruitful Christians. St. Paul writes that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23; ESV). Those who belong to Christ Jesus, according to Paul, “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (v. 24). “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (vv. 19-21). These things are against the Spirit of God, and we ought not participate in them. They are the opposite of the fruit God desires. We crucify the sinful nature and the works of the flesh by repentance, by returning to our Baptism into Christ. The old Adam is daily drowned and dies with all sins and evil desires and the new creation in Christ daily emerges and arises to live before God. This is called sanctification, doing good works and avoiding sin and evil. God wants the fruits of the Spirit. Not the works of the flesh.

But how? We still live in a sinful world. We still live in our sinful flesh. The sinful flesh frustrates us. St. Paul writes about this frustration in Romans Chapter 7, and he writes these words as a Christian and an Apostle: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (vv. 15, 24). How is a Christian to be faithful and fruitful when, in our sinful flesh, we do the very things we hate, the things we do not want to do, the things God does not want us to do? Wretched sinners that we are! Who will deliver us from this body of death? St. Paul has the answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25). Jesus says it this way in our text: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Our Lord Jesus Christ delivers you from this body of death, from the sinful flesh, paying for your sin and the sin of the whole world in His innocent and bloody suffering and death on the cross. And He is risen from the dead to be the true Vine of His Christians, so that His life flows to you and through you in your connection to Him. If a branch is severed from the vine, it is dead. It has no source of life. Not only will it NOT produce fruit, it won’t live. It has no way of receiving nourishment. It will shrivel up and be good for nothing but the fire. But when a branch is connected to the vine, it receives the life-giving and nourishing sap from that vine. The vine connects the branch to the very roots, and the nourishment flows from the roots and through the vine, to the branch and through the branch so that the branch produces beautiful, sweet fruit, fruit that bears within it seed to give birth to others, fruit that can nourish and strengthen those who receive it.

This is a picture of your life in Christ. Christ is the Vine, rooted in the Father, who is also the Vinedresser, the One who tends the Vine that is Christ and the braches that are His body, the Church. You are the branches. If you are severed from the Vine, you are dead. If you are severed from Christ, you cannot remain in the true faith. You will produce no fruit. You will shrivel up and be good for nothing but the fire. The fire, of course, is hell. Outside of Christ, that is the fate of the branches. Dead, shriveled branches will be gathered up and thrown into the fire to burn, says Jesus in our text (v. 6). But if you abide in Christ, if you are connected to the Vine, you receive the life-giving and nourishing sap from that Vine, the Holy Spirit, who enlivens faith in you, faith in Christ, which receives His forgiveness, life, and salvation, and flows to you and through you, active in works of love which are the fruits of the Spirit. That fruit bears seed within it to give the life of faith to others by speaking God’s Word, and nourishes and strengthens others as you do works of love that benefit them. Do you want to be a fruitful Christian, as God desires you to be? The power to produce fruit does not lie within you. There you will only find the works of the flesh. The power is in Christ, the Vine. If you are connected to Him, the works of your sinful flesh are nailed to His cross, and His Spirit flows to you and through you so that you produce the fruit of love and good works. For faith is always active in love. Dr. Luther writes: “Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them and is always at the doing of them.”[1] Fruitfulness is an indication of faith. Good works show that faith is living. Now, of course, the works do not save you. They do not justify you. Jesus saves you by His death and resurrection. Jesus justifies you by His saving work. And His saving work is given to you through the Word. Jesus says in our text, “Already you are clean,” cleansed from sin and the works of the flesh, “because of the word that I have spoken to you,” (v. 3), the Gospel, the Word of Absolution. The works of love, the fruit, is an evidence of that cleansing that has already happened. It is an evidence that you, in truth, are connected to and abide in Christ, the Vine. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us” (1 John 4:13).

And how do you abide in Christ? By His Word and Sacrament. There is no connection to Christ outside of His Word and Sacrament. Word and Sacrament are the means of grace by which God Himself keeps you connected to Christ the Vine so that you receive the Holy Spirit and faith. In fact, Jesus speaks these words to His Apostles on the night He institutes the Lord’s Supper. The image He uses is that of the grape vine, even as He gives the chalice of wine that is His true blood to His disciples. Abide in Me, He says, as He distributes His body and blood. Be connected to Christ in His Supper where He is bodily present with you and gives Himself bodily to you under the bread and wine. Come in repentance. Repent of the works of the flesh. Reject them. No longer walk in them. Don’t participate in them anymore. Commend them to Christ for forgiveness. Come in faith. Believe what Jesus says about your sins, that they are covered by His blood. Believe that in the Supper you receive His true body and blood, and that in this way you are connected to Him and abide in Him. Come as one baptized into Christ, having been made a true branch of Jesus Christ when you were cleansed by water and the Word in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Come in love, love for the Savior who here feeds you, love for one another, for if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11). Forgive each other, care for each other, come as one body to receive the body of Christ.

And the works of the flesh that remain in you, the Father will take care of. He is the Vinedresser. He will prune what is diseased in you, so that you produce more fruit. This pruning is the afflictions and the crosses you bear in your Christian life. It is God’s discipline. God disciplines those He loves. It is never pleasant at the time. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). By discipline, by pruning, the Father cleanses every branch of its unfruitfulness, so that it remains strong and healthy and produces much fruit.

God wants us to be fruitful Christians, and we know what are the fruits of the Spirit, again: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is actually a description of Christ. All these fruits are attributes of Christ. So if you want to be fruitful, as God wants you to be, abide in Christ by His Word and Supper. Abide in Christ by daily returning to your Baptism in repentance and faith. Abide in Christ, and you will love one another, producing the fruit of good works. It is the gift of God. It is God’s Spirit, active in you, flowing to you and through you through Christ, the Vine. Apart from Christ, you can do nothing. But in Christ, you will bear much fruit. It is His promise. And He is faithful. He will surely do it. For He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] "Preface," Commentary on Romans, Trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1954/1976) p. xvii.


Blogger tehazy said...

Excellent. Thank you.
Terry <><

9:15 AM  

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