I have found it difficult to get to writing on Sunday. After church, food, a rest and youth group, it's difficult to sit down and write. But here are my thoughts from yesterday's text, and I'll bring it around to today's text as well. We are on the home stretch together, keep it up! By the way, there won't be a chance for me to write tomorrow, I can almost guarantee it, so look for John 16 and 17 Wednesday.
For John 14, I’m going to just recap where I landed with Sunday’s message. In Genesis 1, in the account of creation God creates the heavens and the earth. God created the heavens and the earth when the whole universe was both “formless and void.” God proceeded to Form and Fill the earth. He formed the sky, the waters and the land. God formed it, and filled it with vegetation, animals, birds, fish and humans. He did so, in the seven days of creation. God takes what was formless and void, and forms and fills.
It was my thinking yesterday that God is still forming and filling. He forms and fills the Israelites, to take the form of his holy nation and fill the Promised Land. Other examples in the Old Testament of forming and filling are of the Ark of the Covenant, Noah’s Ark, and the Tabernacle. God forms and fills in the Old Testament, and he continues that work in the New Testament. In Jesus’ ministry, he takes on human form and fills the earth with glory (Philippians 2). He forms his disciples with his teaching and fills them with his Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes that faith in Jesus Christ unifies us together as the body of Christ. Whatever may have divides us is overcome and we find unity through Christ, and we take shape into his likeness.
I ultimately landed in John 14 in my sermon, where the promise of forming and filling continues. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
When we decide that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we pay more than lip service to our Creator. We invite the same power God used to form and fill the broken, empty and formless world to go to work on our broken, formless and empty life. He forms it into the image of Christ and joins it with a body of believers who take form together to be the Church. The hope for those who are united together in Christ Jesus is redemption. Jesus is coming back, that is the assurance of those who believe in him and invite God to go to work in creating us anew in Jesus Christ.( 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 3:4, Phil 3:17-20)
This leads me to John 15
John 15 is home to a verse that troubles me greatly. If I understand correctly, John 15:1-4 is Jesus telling us that he is the vine and we are the branches. What he means by that is that He alone is our life source. Our life is in him; we cannot exist outside of him. Jesus is our life. If we don’t bear fruit, then we are pruned. That makes sense, why carry the dead weight right? But then he has to follow it with this “while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (emphasis mine) (15:2) Wait a minute? If I’m bearing fruit, I may still be pruned? That doesn’t sound good, and it sounds like it might hurt.
God’s interest is in fruit and obedience. Remaining in Christ is a test of perseverance. The Gardener’s job is for the health of the vine and for his garden to bear much fruit. I think a lesson for me to learn is not whether or not I feel that the pruning done is fair or not, but whether I prove faithful by remaining in Jesus. The correction of the Father is for my good that I would be stronger and bear more fruit for Christ and the kingdom.
This doesn’t rest easy with me; I would much rather avoid trouble and problems. I would just assume let other people learn valuable lessons and I learn from them and their mistakes and hardships.
But I suppose, all I am asking is that I can have the cake and eat it too. Or more likely, that I may follow Christ without carrying my cross.
Jesus is the Vine and I am one among many branches. Our relationship is simple in this: I find life by being in him. He is my life source, and whatever circumstances I might find myself in, whatever struggles or “pruning” experience, it is only an opportunity to draw closer to the true vine and have true life. Pruning is for my own good, and that’s difficult to comprehend and accept, but those who remain faithful go on to live a fruitful life for Christ and his Father’s Kingdom. That’s what I want.
Prayer: You are the Vine, I am the branch. I know I cannot avoid the pruning shears. Your end is that I remain in your Son and bear fruit in ministry for your kingdom. Help me to persevere and trust in you as the true gardener who knows what is best for your garden. You ultimately know when to water, when to weed, when to prune and when to sow. May I trust in your timing and be pleased with how you FORM me and FILL me for your purposes. You have the power to create out of nothing; form within me a loving heart, a considerate mind and new life in Jesus Christ. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
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Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.