John 15:1-8 Common English Bible (CEB)
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 6 If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.
Three Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - The basic imagery of this passage emphasizes the communal and relational nature of the Christian faith. Thus the parable of the Vine challenges all of us whose lives have been constructed largely on the modern idea of the sovereign individual; from this standpoint, acts in a community tend to be seen as outside the central spaces of our lives. The church thus appears as something we are “part of,” apart from our major spheres of life at home and work. Jesus’ parable, however, through its imagery suggests a living and growing community of faith, a site of productivity and increase. Based on its presence on the vine, each branch is to recognize its part in the whole and do its part. STEPHEN A. COOPER - David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) (Kindle Location 16553). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
Quote #2 - In a vineyard, the best grapes are produced closest to the central vine. Understandably, that is where the nutrients are the most concentrated. Thus, the lateral branches are not allowed to ramble all over the arbor. They are pruned and kept short. Jesus drew an apt description of the life of discipleship from this metaphor of nature. Jesus is the true vine, God is the grower, and we are the branches. Through this image, two aspects of God’s created world are held together—bearing fruit and being pruned. NANCY R. BLAKELY - David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) (Kindle Locations 16593-16597). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
Quote #3 - In John’s mind, there are branches that do not produce fruit. They fail to live in love and are concerned only with themselves. It is all about them and not the community. John takes a familiar image and reworks it to set forth a vision for his people. The community that Jesus calls forth is one that embodies an African proverb: Because we are, I am. BARBARA J. ESSEX - David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) (Kindle Location 16729). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
Last week we read the Gospel of John’s version of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after his death and resurrection. They were locked behind doors, hoping to not be noticed by anyone in Jerusalem. Despite those doors and those locks, Jesus appeared to them, said to them, “Peace Be With you” He even appeared again to speak to a disciple who missed it the first time, Thomas.
Though we’re reading from the Gospel of Luke this week, it’s a continuation of the appearance. It’s also the final words spoken by Jesus in this gospel, and his last words are significant.
Our scripture reading is…
Luke 24:36B-48 Common English Bible
Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace Be With You”. They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave *him a piece of baked fish. Taking it, he ate it in front of them. Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Three Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - “Trying to make sense of it all seems to be easier, or at least more fruitful, in a community that shares our experience, our questions, and, in the end, our call. And it is significant that Jesus brings table fellowship right back into the narrative, because it's still at the core of our story and at the center of who we are.” - Kathryn Matthews, Sermon Seeds at UCC.org
Quote #2 - “Barbara Brown Taylor's sermon on this text beautifully describes the embodied experience of Jesus, the way he drew their attention to his hands and his feet. She poetically recalls the ways the hands and feet of Jesus had been important in his ministry, healing people, breaking bread, traveling around with the good news. Now, wounded and bruised, those same hands and feet were proof to the disciples that "he had gone through the danger and not around it."
Through the danger, and not around it. Much of our time and energy is spent on finding a way around things, rather than living through them. We don't want to experience pain or danger, or even to come face to face with the suffering of other people, or the suffering of the earth. What can we do about all of that?
And yet, Taylor says, we bear hope for the world because of the commission Jesus gave the disciples and the whole church long ago, for we are the Body, and the Image, of the Risen Christ in the world today: "Not our pretty faces and not our sincere eyes but our hands and feet--what we have done with them and where we have gone with them" ("Hands and Feet," Home by Another Way).” - Kathryn Matthews, Sermon Seeds, at UCC.org
Quote #3 - “We bear witness to the great movies or television programs we've seen and want others to enjoy. We bear witness to the accomplishments (or failures) of our sports teams. We bear witness to the important events in our family or work lives. We bear witness -- that is, tell someone about -- the things that matter to us all the time.
It's not really all that different when it comes to the faith. Witnessing does not mean shoving our faith down someone's throat or threatening them with eternal hellfire if they don't believe like we do. It's simply telling others where we sensed God at work -- at home or work, at church or school, through a stranger or a friend, a doctor or teacher or neighbor, even through ourselves. Bearing witness is nothing more than saying where you think God is at work in your life and the world.” - David Lose, In the Meantime website, 2012
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