Sunday, April 29, 2018

Of Love and Vines and abiding

Acts 8:24-30    Psalm 22:24-30   1 John 4:7-21   John 15:1-8

The Father has revealed to us, these last few weeks, that we continue the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Jesus breathes into us the Holy Spirit power to forgive sins. Jesus gives us His Name to heal and save. Today's Gospel offers another image: Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches." Branches cannot bear fruit unless they abide in the vine. This is theosis--a human branch shares in the life and identity of the vine, but it is not the vine. We must abide in the vine, that is, be connected at the heart level with Jesus.

The Greek word,  meno is translated as abide, remain, stay, and dwell. The letters and Gospel of John repeatedly use this word, often to describe our relationship with the Trinity: living in God and God living in us.

Let us pause and listen...
Jesus says: "Abide in Me as I abide in you."
Jesus says, "You cannot bear fruit unless you abide in me."
Jesus says. "Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit." Jesus says, "Those who do not abide in me end up being dead branches, thrown into the fire."
Jesus said, "If you abide in me your prayers will be answered."

We hear the same call to abide in the First Letter of John today.

"God is love and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him."
"love one another for love is of God....if we love one another, God lives in us..."
God abides in those who confess Jesus is the son of God and they abide in God.

Love is the gateway to theosis--human love in response to divine love--open us to receive God and be transformed. God is even secretly present in the lives of those who do not know Him. All genuine love is a participation in God. It is easy to forget this part of the Gospel message. Salvation is God's will for all people. However, the prescribed way of theosis/salvation is a conscious response to His invitation. The Christian life style is like a grapevine. We are aware that we rely on God for our life. We know God is the source of our conversion and ministry. As we become more deeply connected, by abiding in Him, His life giving love is the healing power which flows through us and produces fruit.

Fruit is our own transformation--a work of the Holy Spirit with which we cooperate. Fruit is also the effects of the ministry of Jesus in and through us: forgiving sins, healing and delivering folks from satan, teaching and reconciling--raising the dead and giving them Life in Jesus' Name...

Jesus does it. If we abide in Jesus then it will happen through us. The vineyard is under attack by the world and by Satan. Our branch is at risk because of our sinful hearts and darkened minds. It is harder and harder for branches to abide in the vine. 

Last week I invited you to deepen your spirituality by praying the Jesus prayer. I hope you are doing some type of spiritual exercises. Prayer is a key component to abiding in Jesus. That is the first task. If we love Him and abide in Him, then the fruits will happen automatically. We will be made holy. We will be a tool of salvation for others. 

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