(1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8) – J G White
Sunday, April 29, 2018 – UBC Digby
Vineyards. We are seeing more of them in NS…
“I am the Vine and you are the branches,” said Jesus, to his disciples of long ago. Are you a disciple of Jesus today? We do not teach that a person can be a believer, a Christian, be saved, without being a disciple of Christ. Being a Baptist is not a spectator sport. It means you are an apprentice to the Master. Actively learning to live and serve. Lifeskills.
So we get active with our salvation by abiding in the Vine, living closely with God, day to day.
What does it mean to abide in Christ?
Dictionary on my desk only says this about abide: 1 v. tr. tolerate, endure (can’t abide him). 2 int. a act in accordance with (abide by the rules). b remain faithful to (a promise). (The Canadian Oxford Paperback Dictionary, 2000)
All this does not quite get at what we read here about abiding in the Vine, in Jesus. Or when we sing Abide With Me. But, do some people endure Jesus? Or simply think of Christianity as a way of acting in accordance with God’s rules? Or act as if it is only remaining faithful to some promise once made?
I want to connect abide with abode: where one lives. To abide in Christ is to live with and in God. I inhabit God, and God inhabits me.
What does this look like?
There is action and contemplation. Doing things. And then reflecting on what got done, praying, seeking guidance about it.
These are both part of bearing fruit, and being pruned. Doing things, and praying/meditating.
Contemplation. Basically includes Prayer and Bible. Are you satisfied with your praying?
With your use of the scripture?
I want to offer some guidance for adults in terms of Bible comprehension and use, and the practice of prayer. I am tempted to invite many of you to a Bible Study only for those who have not been to a Bible Study. If you already have been to Bible Study as an adult, you are not allowed at this one! 😉 I won’t limit it that way. But I’d like to hear who is interested.
Meditation & other spiritual practices.
Pastors’ Retreat this week: resting in God.
These aid our reliance upon the Vine, strengthen our connection. Partly because we get in touch with ourselves, our inner selves, deep inside. Where the deepest connection with others, and Other, happens.
Action. Do things with God.
Henry Blackaby’s book and study guides titled, Experiencing God, have been popular for twenty-five years. One of the lessons there is: Join God in what God is doing… The Spirit is active in your neighbourhood: get in touch with what Christ is doing, and join Jesus there!
Here is an example from Tidings. Tidings is an Atlantic Baptist monthly magazine which celebrates and resources our ministry locally, and around the world. In the March issue is an article titled, ‘Eat Out More Often’, by Andrew Morse.
A ministry at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Saint John, NB, that we call Soul Food was born almost a decade ago to respond to the needs of the hungry in West Saint John. Initially, the program was designed to be like a soup kitchen with delicious food, worship music, and the gospel message all being offered as a service to the community. Then something shifted a couple years ago and our little ministry absolutely changed.
We invited the congregation to join us at the Soul Food program, and the mealtime became an opportunity to care for and sit down with our neighbours. We were no longer providing a service as much as we were having meals with our friends. In a period of about two years, the ministry grew from about 15 to 20 folk to around 80 to 100 people. We absolutely fell in love with them and they knew it!
The dynamics continued to evolve. Those who initially came to receive a service were soon working alongside us. Our Soul Food people now helped with setup, teardown, leading hymns, serving the food, and so on.
This sort of ministry can get a little messy, but I believe it is the kind of pure religion talked about in James 1:27. (p. 11)
Good action is also a matter of knowing what not to do. Paring down the excess. Paying attention to how what we do can be changed; just as the Soul Food luncheon did. We have Jesus’ words about God pruning the vines. For the sake of the whole vine that is to bless the world, it gets trimmed regularly.
Ever notice that overgrown, untended vineyard in Annapolis Royal… Weedy and unpruned for a decade. There must be pruning in our lives.
Also, abiding with God happens in relationships. Andrew Morse, at that Church in Saint John, says, People crave genuine love in relationships. For too long, we have let the fear of making mistakes keep us from doing God’s work when he has simply desired obedience from broken people who love others honestly.
Our Jesus relationship happens in our people relationships, not just in our alone time.
There is a horrible song, sung by Tom T. Hall. 😉
Well, me and Jesus got our own thing goin
Me and Jesus got it all worked out
Me and Jesus got our own thing goin
We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.
That doesn’t work for me! Ugh.
How we treat one another is how we spend time with Christ, with God, with the Spirit. I think, in my own life, I am finally beginning to appreciate this.
After all, Jesus said, “just as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mtt 25: 45)
And apparently He also said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:12, 13)
And, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (Jn 15:5)
So act – do good things – then contemplate your action. Think and pray, and learn from what you do. Spend time alone so you can be close to God, and spend time with people so you can be close to God. These must go hand-in-hand.
Abide: dwell with and in God, in every circumstance, every day. And Christ, the Vine, will grow us as beautiful branches. Fruitful and good for this world, and forever. Amen.