“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also…
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (New International Version)
Two characters: Jesus and Emmet
Scene: Emmet is moving in with Jesus as a roommate.
“Nice digs, Jesus. Not quite what I was expecting – looks good and clean – but just ordinary.”
“I’m glad you decided to take up my offer and come live with me in my house, Emmet. Well, it’s actually my Father’s house.”
“Yeah, well, it wasn’t working out so well with my girlfriend, Jezebel. She was into a lot of weird stuff, like some crazy real estate schemes, especially with vineyards – the woman is obsessed with buying up vineyards. Besides, she told me she hates me. That really hurt.”
“Emmet, I think you will find I’m into a different kind of vineyard and real estate. And there isn’t any hate there. It’s called ‘the kingdom of God.’”
“Kingdom, huh? Sounds like a pretty big gig to me, Jesus.”
“Oh, yes, it is. The biggest. You know, Emmet, by living and abiding with me here you will get to know all about the kingdom.”
Sounds groovy, man… or should I say, ‘Son of Man!’ Hey, Jesus, you got any beer and chips in this joint? I’m starving.”
“No, sorry, I’m afraid not right now. But I do have some wine and some bread.”
“Well, okay, Jesus. I’m super hungry. I could go for about anything.”
“Here you go Emmet.” (Jesus gives Emmet a wafer and communion cup – Emmet just stands there and looks at it). “Make yourself at home in my love, Emmet.”
“Um, hey, Jesus, not to be ungrateful or anything, but is this all you have?”
“Just try it, Emmet. I think you will find it rather satisfying.”
(Emmet takes the bread and drinks the cup). “Holy Communion, Jesus! Whoa! I’m actually full! What in the world is in that stuff, anyway?”
“There’s no world in it, at all, Emmet. I am the vine. You are the branch. When you drank, you ingested me. You’re joined with me, and I with you. Apart from me you are always going to be hungry and thirsty, no matter how much other food you eat and how much beer you drink. But if you stay here and settle in with me, make this your permanent home and not just a place to hang your hat, you can be sure that I will always listen to you and do whatever you ask of me.”
“That’s heavy, man. Very cool. I can dig it!”
“I have told you this for a purpose, Emmet – that we might enjoy being roommates together. By the way, I have just one rule in my house that I expect to be obeyed, always: Love other people in the same way that I love you. Never forget, Emmet: If you ever get locked-out of the house, it is love which opens the door to my place. Remember, Emmet, that love is the key.”
“You know, Jesus, you’re kind of odd, but I like you, dude. I’m glad I chose to come here.”
“Emmet, you did not choose me; I chose you and brought you here because of my love. And I am sending you into the world to love. Remain here with me, abide with me in this place, and you will see things happen beyond what you can even think or imagine. Go, now, and bear the fruit of love in my kingdom, and when you come back, I’ll have a place for you to sleep and you will rest like you have never rested before.”
“I really appreciate your hospitality, Jesus. But what if I mess up? Or forget about your rule?”
“When you came here, Emmet, you probably saw someone standing just outside the door.”
“Yeah… I did see some dude who looked way out there, man, like he was from another universe, like maybe New Jersey, or something.”
“That was the Advocate. He will come whenever you mess up or forget about my love. The Advocate will help you remember the truth.”
(Jesus walks Emmet to the door). “There’s nothing to worry about. Just go and love others like I love you. Good-bye, Emmet.”
“Bye, Jesus. I’ll be back after I go spread some love around, just like you taught me….”
Welcome, friends! The words of Jesus informs us of our important connection to God and how to maintain it. The fruit we produce from that connection is meant for the life of the world. Click the videos below and let us live and abide in Christ…
The bread of life is given for you. May you know the riches of God’s goodness. The blood of Christ is shed for you. May you know the peace of his forgiveness. Amen.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8, NIV)
“Remain in Me”
The word “remain” means to linger in the present moment – to be mindful to ourselves and our situations and stay connected. It is to have continual unbroken fellowship with Jesus.
To have a connection, there must be two ends to connect. The Jesus connection is consistent. It’s always there. We are the other connection. And, frankly, we can be flaky – pulling away and coming close. Which is why Jesus gives a repeated invitation to keep the connection. Here are a few other translations of John 15:4….
Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. (CEV)
Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It must stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me. (GW)
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (NKJV)
Our task as Christians is to remain connected to Jesus. So, the question is: How do we keep the connection without breaking it? How can we be fruitful?
Focus On the Relationship
Christianity, at its core, is about a living relationship with Jesus. Yes, doctrine is important. And it is necessary to know the basic tenets of Christian faith. Yet, any knowledge and understanding we gain about Christianity is to be channeled into developing the relationship.
Bible trivia is only as good as the understanding we apply to build the relationship. Knowledge makes us proud of ourselves, while love makes us helpful to others. While knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
Christ’s redemptive events of incarnation, holy life, death, resurrection, and ascension are all meant to restore a severed relationship with humanity. Therefore, knowing doctrinal truth is not the same as using the doctrines to connect with God in a loving relationship.
As with all relations, it takes planning, dedication, time, and effort to grow and maintain our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we fail to use our time and energy on that relationship, then the leaves on the branch begin to wither.
Scripture, silence, solitude, community, prayer, giving, and fasting have always been at the center of Christian practices which are designed to put us in a position to hear and receive from God.
Relate Well to the Other Branches
The church is a community. Christ and the church have a vital union with each other. We are a living growing community. I used to live in a place where there was a tree that had grown up next to an old fence post. The tree grew tall and engulfed the post to the degree that now you can only see part of the fence post.
To try and remove the post, you would need to remove the tree. The two have become one. And the tree is still growing. Not only are we connected to the trunk, but we’re also connected to each other. We are all part of the same vine. We aren’t separate vines. So, we all need to do our part in the system of the vine.
Keep Close to the Vine
My grandmother had a grapevine in her backyard when I was a kid. I have firsthand understanding that the best grapes are located closest to the trunk of the vine. The sweetest, juiciest, biggest, and best tasting grapes are found in the middle, securely next to the vine’s trunk.
If you’re into sour grapes, then pick the ones at the end of the branches. Show me a sourpuss Christian, and I’ll show you a Christian who is not close to Christ. Show me a sweet Christian and I’ll show you a believer who daily works at their connection with Jesus.
Pruning is Necessary
Healthy vines need to be pruned, at least once a year. Ideally, twice a year, in the Spring before budding; and in the fall, after the harvest. To ignore pruning is to compromise the vine’s ability to produce both good grapes and lots of grapes. The branches of a grapevine need to be kept short because the nutrients are concentrated in and near the vine. Long branches compromise the harvest.
Pruning hurts. From the perspective of us branches, pruning feels like judgment. But it isn’t. Even though pruning is painful for us, it makes us healthier and tastier. It’s better to do a few things well, rather than try and do a lot of things for which we have limited time and energy. It is a good practice to do some pruning twice a year.
Know Why You are Connected
Christians are joined to Jesus. Yes, we are connected so that we are saved from sin, death, and hell. And, yes, we are also linked with Jesus to experience life to the full. Yet, the goal or the end of the connection is to produce succulent fruit.
If there are no grapes on the vine, the vine is useless. Then we get rid of it. Grapevines exist to produce grapes. Christians and churches exist for the life of the world, to produce the fruit of righteousness consistent with our Christ-connected union: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The church is not an end in and of itself. The church exists for the life of the world. Jesus said:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16, NIV)
If we live in union with Christ, and if the words and ways of Jesus live powerfully within us—then ask for anything, and it will be done. Prayer is both an event and a process. It is something anyone can do, as well as a spiritual practice that needs growth and development.
God’s Word, the words of Jesus, are the nutrients for our spiritual life. When those words find a home within us, there is a divine/human conversation as well as a mystical union. Christ promises that if we just ask, it’s ours.
As our relationship with Christ grows, we learn to be thoughtful about our asking. Flippantly or selfishly asking for things disrespects the connection we enjoy with God. Claiming or demanding answers to prayer demeans the relationship. However, we can also dishonor God by simply not asking, at all.
Essentially, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go ahead, try me!” Prayer is the delivery system for our nutrients. And prayer is also the means of delivering the blessing of succulent fruit so that the world might live.
Jesus modeled prayer for his disciples, and for us. Those prayers are grounded in connection and unity with the Father. Just as God is One, we are to be one:
I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.
I have honored my followers in the same way that you honored me, in order that they may be one with each other, just as we are one. I am one with them, and you are one with me, so that they may become completely one. Then this world’s people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me.
Father, I want everyone you have given me to be with me, wherever I am. Then they will see the glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the world was created. Good Father, the people of this world don’t know you. But I know you, and my followers know that you sent me. I told them what you are like, and I will tell them even more. Then the love that you have for me will become part of them, and I will be one with them. (John 17:20-26, CEV)
We are to live and to pray consistent with who we are and what our mission is. The church is to be one as God is one. Christians are to pray for unity because our triune God is always united. Believers everywhere are to remain and abide in Christ through a vital connection of loving God and loving neighbor.