Love One Another
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8 and Psalm 22.
Today we read one of “I am” proclamations from Jesus in John as “I am the true vine you are the branches ”. There are seven. We read about a couple of them last week with “I am the gate” and “I am the shepherd.”
In the Gospel (John 15), Jesus is beginning what is known as the farewell discourse. Jesus preaches to the disciples knowing that Jesus won’t be physically there. Jesus preps them for the journey ahead of them. Jesus preaches this knowing that the world won’t always receive the disciples (or their message) with welcome hospitality.
So the image of Jesus as the true vine is reminds us that Jesus is the true head of the Church and we are the branches - similar to what we read in 1 Corinthians 12 as the church is body of Christ made up of many members of many different skills.
As a gardener, I can tell you my experience with vines. I had no idea what to expect with cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloup vines. Wow these things grow but oh do they need space! When they are well taken care, they bear lots of fruit. Even the vine or the rosebush needs pruning now and then to help the health of the plant. It needs nourishment and water. I, as the gardener, cannot tell the plant to start growing, it does so on its own so long as I do my part.
We as the branches of the vine have God as our gardener. We want to stay connected. We go to church!
The epistle from John arises from a community trying to define itself, and it reminds us that Christian ideals have been difficult in a world that maintains a variety of beliefs, kind of like today. The epistle tells us how to stay connected to the vine and centers upon the love of God and love of one another.
Why because Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to give all of self for us – bearing branches and fruit.
That is the core of Jesus, and the core of our Church. Jesus did not come to just to die but to give life. “By this, you know God is love” and life giving grace - Life giving fruit. We, as branches, want to stay connected to the vine and be willing - to bear fruit - that is to give all of ourselves in God’s love, grace and peace for all the world.
How does one do that? 1 John tells us, “by this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God… Little children, you are from God… The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” That is to say the spirit of God is in you, children of God, and with that spirit you have strength and peace.
Without it, you have hate, anger and fear clouding your hearts -holding us. Rather, we hold onto them.
Push hate and fear out for they cloud your mind and heart with judgment and destructive thoughts. Hate and fear reject the truth and reject it because they reject the possible. Hate and fear demand, dehumanize, and desensitize because they are at core selfish and greedy distortions away from what is true and what is surely possible. They establish bias and judgment instead of openness and understanding.
Unshackle yourself from these and you will find the fruit, the treasure of God in your heart. Push out hate, bias, anger and fear and open your heart to possible.
Loving God and neighbor are not just words and require concentration.
I can say this about my own because we want to turn to these when someone says something hurtful or even in moments of crisis. Why? As Yoda says, fear and anger are “easier and more seductive.” But are they. We think they might shield us but do they shield us from potential hurt, potential feeling?
Sometimes, people find these “shields” in substances, but are they.
This is why people in recovery will tell you about the moments of clarity, the a-ha moments. In those moments, we realize the shields have been illusions and blinding - from seeing what truly is. In that “a-ha” or “I get it” moment, people can begin the process of liberating themselves from destructive, negative forces and lean into what is possible. That is the process and it is a process: the daily practice of recovery - liberating from harmful and into the love inside you.
It is not just addictions, but every day struggles. It is these struggles and crisis moments – are precisely when Christ’s teachings matter the most.
We have choices. We could ignore truths- maybe cower away in denial. But we might miss the roses. We might miss the wind flowing in the trees or the morning sunshine pouring into windows of life. Push beyond your comfort zones.
One of my earliest instructors once gave me a kind of Will Rogers chunk of wisdom, “whenever you meet someone first find out something about them beyond their name. Then you will find it harder to judge them later” – for even the homeless person on the street has something beautiful to share.
See God’s nature at work all around you, and most importantly, see God’s work in beautiful, broken you. Liberate yourself from anger, hate or fears and lean into possible – lean into God’s love.
Be freed, be saved! Discover flowing abundance of grace and peace poured out for you right here.
Yes, Jesus did not come to die but to give life – give wholeness. God is life giving grace - Life giving fruit. So should we. Us, as the branches of vine - as God’s children, bear fruit through our love, grace and peace that has been poured out for us to each other. Love one another.
Bear these fruits of love, grace and peace - for all God’s children. God loves you. The world may not always understand, but you do. So live it.
Share that love, grace and peace with those around you, and you will discover so many beautiful things in this world, more sunshine, more days full of opportunities.
Love one another!
In God’s kingdom, the poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek wholeness will have it.
Praise the Lord!
The vine lives on in you and me.
Let us together bear God’s fruits to all our neighbors.
Thanks Be to God.