May 16, 2021

The Vine and the Branches 02-05=2021

2nd May 2021 Fifth Sunday of Easter
Title: The Vine and the Branches
(Scripture Readings: Acts 8:26-40; John 15:1-8)
By Heeyoung Lim
Philip was sent by an angel from Samaria to the desert, and he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. The lay disciple Philip went wherever God sent. (Acts 8:26) Philip was in God’s plan and ministering through the Holy Spirit. (27) When Philip was doing his missionary work among the Samaritans, he received a divine invitation to broaden the boundaries of the Christian message from the familiar surroundings. (40) The mission field has been extended to the desert for everyone’s salvation.
God led him to meet an Ethiopian eunuch, treasurer to the queen. The man was on his way home from temple worship, and he was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (29) Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. The man invited Philip to come up and sit with him; he asked the questions that lead to an introduction of the Saviour. (34) The Ethiopian man was baptised and continued his journey home, “rejoicing.” The joyful return is introduced throughout Luke’s gospel many times.
Philip listened to God’s voice through the angel of the Lord, ran to the chariot by the Holy Spirit, and explained the meaning of the Scripture with joy. Leading other people to Christ requires that we be ready, unafraid, able to use God’s Word, and filled with the Holy Spirit. (39)
Philip may have felt mixed emotions of the loneliness in the desert and the regret of leaving Samaria where he put his efforts; he would have hoped that this stranger could really understand the Messiah written by the prophet.
We know that the Holy Spirit takes place when a willing Christian spread the gospel to a prepared listener. (30) There was a willing servant, living Scripture, and the empowering Spirit in the desert. (39) What a combination.
So many Christians own Bibles, but they usually struggle to use them effectively in family worship, personal spiritual growth, and spreading gospel. I hope many more people can come to Christ through our prayers and efforts. Philip is called to share the good news revealed in Jesus without any prejudice. (40) God does amazing things through lay people just like Philip. Luke emphasises that the good news about Jesus is for everyone through the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.
I hope we can also be ready to go any place for God at any time just like Philip. There would be lots of unknown deserts and possible chariots in our lives. We do not know when and how God will send us for others in a cooperation of servant, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit, but I believe we need to be ready to catch our chariot whenever and wherever it comes along. Sometimes we need to go to others who still do not know Jesus instead of holding back. To do this, believers need to be ready to spread and explain the gospel after knowing the Bible well. I believe our ability to use the knowledge of the Bible needs to be grow in faith. All service for the Lord must be empowered by His Spirit and seeking Christ in our lives as often as possible.
In John 15, Jesus said that I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener: God cuts off every branch of mine that does not bear fruit. He says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but only if it remains in the vine.” (4) I am the vine; you are the branches. Without me, you cannot do anything. (5)
In today’s text, we listened to one of the “I Am” statements of Jesus. We have to go beyond the actual words and discover the meaning because Jesus sometimes spoke in allegories and images. We are grafted to Jesus and so can receive our strength from Him as His followers. If we break away from Him, and fail to live his ways, we will be like unproductive branches and die and bear no fruit.
Branches that remain in the vine, and submit to the pruner’s knife when necessary, live and bear fruit. How do we remain in Him? We must have faith in our community that believes in Him and celebrates Him as its Lord. We can bear good quality fruit by God’s pruning knife. Though it hurts, we need to be in front of God’s pruning knife. However, within the faith community, we must abandon our own pruning knife because we are not qualified as a gardener. We all belong to Jesus; we are all in God’s beautiful garden as His branches. We cannot go it alone; we need to remain in Jesus and our lovely faith community by worship, prayer, and fellowship. It can be the ways to remain in Jesus. Verse 7 says, “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want, and it will happen for you. My father is glorified in this: that you bear plenty of fruit, and so become my disciples.” What a blessing.
There are extraordinary promises about prayer and bearing fruit; our personal relationship with the Lord by prayer and our divinely appointed mission by bearing fruit will be our true blessings in our faith communities. Remaining in the Lord is not a temporary work, it is related to long-term health and productivity. It has nothing to do with our age, gender, and situations. We are members of God’s true people and Jesus’ disciples if we are belong to Him and remain in Him. The vine and the branches are about who Jesus and His people really are, and what is going to happen to them.
We can bear fruit by living a productive life as we follow Jesus. Whenever we are faced with situations of need in our lives, we can also ask ourselves the question “What and how would Jesus do?” We can be fruitful through helping and serving others because we are taking the opportunity to serve the Christ who is already beside people.
We need to cultivate our relationship with Him. How can we strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ? How can we remain connected to Him? I believe that we can do it by participating in worship, serving the Lord and others, celebrating the Holy Communion, reading the Bible, and living out the gospel in our lives. I hope and pray we can all be productive and healthy branches, grafted to the true vine Jesus.
Abiding in the Lord is our blessing and happiness. Our saviour Jesus can be expressed as our home where we can be loved and nurtured, lifeline that leads to salvation, the source of peace and security where we can live to our full potential, and the place of spiritual nourishment. Our spiritual address we should live is Jesus. That is why we can live fruitful and productive lives in Jesus. When we allow Christ to live in us then we can bear fruit, because we are evidence of God’s love, deeply joined to Him, and dedicated to Him. Bearing fruit means engaging for ourselves as individuals and as the church in God’s work.
Fruitful branches need to be pruned and cleansed so they may bear more fruit. May we continue to live and grow as fruitful branches all grafted to Jesus our true vine. May we continue to let Christ live in us as we live in Him. For then we will be fruitful followers of Jesus. Jesus is the true vine, and we are the branches and disciples. No branch can bear fruit by itself. I hope we can all glorify God by abiding in the Lord, and I pray we can remain in Christ and His word to be fruitful.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)