Fifth Sunday of Easter – Sunday, April 29, 2018

April 29, 2018  

John 15:1-8

You will see in a few minutes, we are receiving a diverse group of new members into this family of faith. By baptism, by transfer, they come here feeling welcomed and, I hope, wanting this place, this community be their spiritual “home.”

Vincent, Jesse, Laura, Lucy, Jim, Jane, Scott, Mary, Mary and Stanley—welcome home.

Jesus said to his disciples “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).

It is fitting we welcome new members today, on this day when the gospel reading leads us to consider wherein we abide. A secondary definition of the word “abide” is “to stay or live somewhere” (merriam-webster.com). We cannot literally, physically live in Jesus. But we can make his “house” our “home.” This is his house. This is our home. This is our house of faith. This is our sanctuary.

I remember the first time I walked into this sanctuary. I had been keeping myself away from any church for a few years. I was feeling vulnerable, maybe a little afraid. I had been told I would be welcomed here but I wasn’t sure. No member of the LGBT community is ever sure any welcome will really be welcoming. But I had met Pastor Rachel and I trusted her heart. And so I came here. To this place.

I have always described Pastor Rachel as my lighthouse. She shone the light of Christ on me, calling me through these doors. But it was you, all of you who were here then, who kept me here. You are my family.

I was reading a commentary where it says “the image of community that emerges [from these verses] is one of interrelationship, mutuality, and indwelling… In a vine, branches are almost completely indistinguishable from one another… all run together as they grow out of the central vine. What this vine image suggests about community, then, is that there are no free-standing individuals in community, but branches who encircle one another completely” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 9, p. 760).

This is our goal.

Interrelationship.

Mutuality.

Becoming indistinguishable from one another because we are one—one church, one house, one sanctuary.

Last week’s Young Peoples’ Message, when I asked parents to stand up and to tell their children they loved them, and then we all stood up and we all told all of the young people we loved them—the moment was powerful because we spoke with one voice. “I love you.”   And we do! We love each other. There is a joy in our loving that is genuine, it is holy, it is God’s.

Again, a scholar wrote “Were the church to live as the branches of Christ, individual distinctiveness would give way to the common embodiment of love. The distinctiveness of the community would derive solely from its relationship to God and Jesus, not the characteristics or even gifts of its members. The mark of the faithful community is how it loves, not who are its members” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 9, p. 761).

I’d like to think that we love well here. That we love others as God loves us. That we love ourselves as God loves us. That we love God as God loves us. I do think, at least from my own experience, we are a loving place. But—there’s always opportunities for growth. Which is why we, the branches, need Jesus our vine, and which is why we the branches need God our Vine-grower.  We need to depend on Jesus. We need to depend on the wisdom and guidance of God.

One more point—the love we share here cannot only be for those we gather with, here. Our love must be for others. Our love must be seen in how we live with our neighbors. Our love must be for the strangers in our midst. Our love must be for everyone, always, here and around the world. That is how God loves us. That is how we are called to love and to live.

Amen.