In this passage from the gospel of John today, Jesus says, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15:8, NRSV)
“That you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Here we find that bearing fruit and becoming Jesus’ disciples are tied together. Those of us who would follow Jesus should also be dedicated to bearing fruit worthy of our Savior.
The passage from 1 John that is linked in the Three Year Common Lectionary Cycle to this passage from the Gospel of John tells us what this “fruit” should look like: Love.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.” (1 John 4:7)
This should not surprise us! After all, on our recent Lent and Holy Week journey we heard Jesus give the greatest commandment: to love one another as I have first loved you.
Now while there are portions of scripture that do not agree with each other, that even contradict themselves, there is one salient and central point that surfaces in scripture again and again: God is love, God desires us to love, and God makes possible this love through the work of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us and for the world. So the fruit, the “crop” God desires of us is love, and God makes it possible for us to bear this love when we like branches and grapes upon the vine, are connected to Jesus.
Again, from today’s gospel lesson: “I am the true vine…abide in me.” (John 15:1, 4b)
“Abide in me.” Abide in Jesus. The scriptures do not say abide in agendas of our own making. They do not say abide in fear and judgment and isolationism. They do not say abide in loving those who look and think like you and I. They do not say abide in one or another news network or political party and its portrayal of the world. The scriptures say to abide in Jesus our Savior. Abide in the true vine so that we might bear fruit worthy of God.
And God in Christ has made possible and continues to make possible this abiding. God has come down from heaven to earth to intersect our lives so that by the saving power of the cross we might be freed from all that hinders us from loving; pruned by the vinegrower so that a new crop, an abundant crop of love might be shared abundantly and with abandon. So that new flowers can come out, as they will in the coming months in that garden by the sign that tells people “come, here, discover the love of Christ. Look, here is a community coming out into the worlds to bear the love of Christ.”
This love is not for the few but for the many. We will always know this love because it calls us to share it with everyone! If we find ourselves loving, but with exceptions, then we can be reasonably sure that God is standing nearby with a set of pruning shears getting ready to lovingly trim and nurture in us a greater heart. If, on the other hand, we find ourselves setting aside judgment, setting aside E.G.O. (remember “E.G.O.” stands for “Ease God Out”); if we find ourselves setting aside all that gets in the way of sharing love with everyone and everything we encounter in this world, then we can be reasonably sure that God is standing nearby with a bright smile on God’s face – and a hefty pile of branches that were already trimmed off of us!
So where can we love more as people? Where can we love more as a Church? Where can we love more as a world? This is the true work associated with that odd and interesting word, “disciple.”
A disciple is a person who follows the teaching of another who is considered more wise and knowledgeable than they are. John the Baptist had disciples. When those little lights come on the dashboard in my car, saying that something needs attention, I become a disciple of the car manual for a time as I try to figure out what needs fixing. When I want to make home made biscuits like my mother always made them, light and fluffy and delicious, I become a disciple of the Pillsbury Cookbook, 1957 edition for a time.
Yet the calling to be disciples, to be Jesus followers; this is not a call that lasts for as long as we see the check engine light on the dashboards of our lives. God in Christ has claimed us for life, by the cross, so that we might be life for others. This investiture of new life and love, this investing in us by God through Christ is an every day, twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week, three hundred and sixty five day a year undertaking.
We are remade in God’s image of love, washed and cleaned and outfitted for the journey so that we can carry this love out into the world.
There’s no doubt that we have our work cut out for us, trying to carry this love to the world. There’s no doubt, right? We’ll have to cut through the barriers of human judgment and our own self-doubts. We’ll need to turn off the toxic news feed and turn up the volume on God’s resurrection channel. We’ll have to practice returning love for hate, and creatively building alliances where only walls of misunderstanding and mistrust once stood.
We’ll have to love more at home and demonstrate this by how we treat the family and friends with whom we live or with whom we interact from a distance – not just in the easy times but when everyone is grumpy and sick and tired and mean-spirited. We’ll have to love more in the world, demonstrated by our care for the earth and standing by all people – especially those being marginalized or vilified, especially when it’s not in vogue and not supported by our world leaders. We’ll have to love more by working to end unjust prison systems and building networks of sustainable farming and food access.
My friends this is what it means to bear fruit and share love in the world. It is tangible. It is something that people around us can see and look and say “my golly, who are these people? What is that love that is pouring out of the their hearts into action in the world? Where does it come from? I want to know about that love! I want to be filled with that love! I want to know what can make a life shine like that!”
And we know. We know. Any shining that comes through us; it comes because Christ lives in us! We have been grafted on to the vine that is Christ Jesus. We have been remade inheritors of the Kingdom of God’s justice and love. And we are being pruned so that all that does not serve God in us and in our communities can fall away, leaving room for God’s brilliant mercy and love to shine forth, pointing this world and us to a better way. Amen.