Easter 5: Feeling Pruned

Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter

Feeling Pruned?  What does it mean to feel pruned? If there is a time to feel pruned now is the time. In our lives, country and world.

There was another devastating earthquake, this time in Nepal, riots in Baltimore, upheaval in the political world.  And then there are the personal difficulties that we all experience at home or at work.  Illness in the family, death of loved ones, conflict in our job or home.

And that’s the thing. At any given moment, even when things are going relatively well, there are still so many difficult things with which to contend in this life and it often feels like being pruned.

Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it just feels like being cut, cut down by life’s tragedies great or small, cut down by disappointment or despair, cut down by illness or job loss or other circumstances beyond our control and left to wither and die.

Jesus is teaching his disciples about abiding in him, about living without him on the eve of his crucifixion. He knows what is going to happen – both to himself and to his disciples. Jesus knows that they are about to be cut down by his crucifixion and death and he is assuring them that even though he is not going to be with them physically anymore — that they will survive, even thrive.

In the last month I have presided over 4 funerals and yesterday I attended a funeral of a very good friend.

I have seen and experienced the devastation of a life taken away from us — I have seen and I have felt the hurt and the pain of loving someone so much that it is impossible to think that you will no longer see them again. 

Here the disciples are feeling that way, they know something is going on, that Jesus is telling them that he is no longer going to be with them and they are hurt, scared and worried about their future. 

But what they will soon find out is that life comes out of death, that death will not have the final word — that even though they feel like they are being pruned – cut off from the rest of the world, that they are being taken away from their source of life – what they don’t realize is that something even better than they could imagine is on the horizon. 

This is hard for them to believe just like it is hard for us to believe.  We so often are settled in a river to tears not knowing how to go on, we can’t see a future of hope and promise which is given to us by God.  We have so many doubts and we have no idea how we are going to produce good fruit. 

But through the uncertainly and distress, Jesus promises us – that he will not abandon us.  Instead he will cling to us like a vine clings to a tree so that we endure, persevere, and even flourish among the difficulties of our life. 

Jesus doesn’t say, Abide in me – and if you don’t then we will have problems.  Instead he says “Abide in me, as I abide in you.” This is a promise that no matter what happens, Jesus will be with us. That no matter what happens, Jesus will hold onto us. And that no matter what happens, God in Jesus will bring all things to a good end.

We have the promise that no matter what happens, God is with us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  So many times we try to push ourselves away from God and the church with these bad things happen in our life-  when we experience the death of a loved one, or we have some kind of sickness in our lives, or when we become too overwhelmed with stress and disfunction. 

But we have the promise from God that God is always with us that God will keep us and guide us.  This promise was given to the disciples even before Jesus died!  Jesus told them that as they, as we abide in him he abides in us so they know, so we know how much God loves us.

But it is not only our connection with God that is important.  It is our connection with one another as well. 

We can’t sustain our connection to God without also feeding our connections to each other. So we gather together, not only on a Sunday morning but throughout the week as well.  Formally at Bible Studies and fellowship events, but also informally at one another’s homes, and various places throughout the community.

Together as the one body of Christ we are the hand and feet of God in the world.

By trying new things we are learning how to abide in Christ, we are learning how to listen to what God is calling us to do and as we do this work together, as we remain faithful to God and to one another we are seeing the fruits of the spirit come upon our congregation.  When we prayerfully do the work that God is calling us to do, we will see the benefits of that faithfulness. 

This is what God wants, this is why God came into the world.  Instead of sitting back God chose to come to us, to live with us, to be with us and to suffer and die for us. So that we can be blessed which gives us the strength and courage to bless others.

The cross is evidence and testimony to just how much God already loved us and God’s promise to be with us through all things. The resurrection is the promise that no matter how much tragedy we endure, these hardships will not have the last word.

Jesus has destroyed the power of death and out of any situation new life will be abundant.  This is the promise given to us in our baptism, this is the promise given to us in the gathering of friends and family on a Sunday morning, this is the promise given to us in the bread and wine, in the body and blood of Christ. 

So that every time we gather around the altar we can taste and see the body and blood of Christ and know that God is with us. 

To listen to the entire sermon click on the link below.

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