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Stay Connected to the Vine”
John 15:1-8, 16


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday of Easter—May 10, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The readings in our worship services are usually those which have been selected by a committee, and are followed on the same Sunday around the world in churches of many different denominations.  So, it is just a coincidence that the Gospel Reading for our Confirmation Sunday today is Jesus’ declaration, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.”  And, yet, these words of Jesus spoken at the Last Supper are really like a concise sermon, from our Lord himself, for your Confirmation Day.

Our Lord’s little sermon includes a note of Law, and a warning for you: “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

That is the fate we all deserve because of our sins.  To be thrown into the fire of hell.  And, we cannot possibly do anything to earn our way out of hell and into heaven, as Jesus declares, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus spoke those words at the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.  Just a few hours later on Good Friday, he would bear our sins in his body on the cross.  And, a few days later on Easter Sunday, he would rise in triumph over sin, death, and the devil.  “Because I live,” Jesus promises, “you also will live.”

You also will live in triumph over sin, death, and the devil, because Jesus himself earned FOR YOU your way out of hell and into heaven.  Several of the Bible verses which you memorized for Confirmation class put it this way: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.” “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus promises, “he who believes in me shall live, even if he dies.” “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

“You did not choose me,” Jesus says, “but I chose you.”  Jesus chose you in your Baptism, when he made you born again as his child, through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  Peter describes the power of Baptism in today’s Reading from the Book of Acts: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children.”

In your Baptism, you were born again as a child of God and united with Christ in a al union, just as a branch is united to the vine.  Through your Baptism, you receive the blessings of his sacrificial death, the forgiveness he earned for you on the cross.  As Paul says in Romans, “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.”  And Peter says in Acts, “Be baptized, and wash away your sins.”

“I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit.”  Your Baptism was the beginning of your life in Christ, the beginning of your growth in the grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the beginning of bearing his fruit in your life.

Baptism is one part of the two-part plan Jesus gives us for making disciples for him: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus says.  And your parents have indeed faithfully brought you to Jesus.  First of all, in your Baptism.  And then they also followed your Baptism with the other part of Jesus’ two-part plan for making disciples for him: “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Your parents faithfully brought you up in the training and instruction of the Lord, by bringing you over the years to worship, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation class.  Today, that training and instruction in the Lord is bearing fruit as you confirm your faith in Christ as your Savior, and receive for the first time his body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

“I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.”  Just as your Baptism was not the end, but the beginning of your life in Christ, your Confirmation also marks not the end, but the continuation of your life in Christ.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”  As you continue your way in the world, take Jesus with you, as your partner on the journey.  As you go into high school, college, the working world, marriage, and family life, take Jesus with you, as your partner on the journey, and you will bear much fruit in your life.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . .  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit. . .  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  Throughout your life, “Stay Connected to the Vine.”

Stay connected to the Vine, through faithful, regular worship in God’s house.  Hebrews says, “Let us not give up meeting together.”  The Psalms say, “I rejoiced with those who said unto me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”  “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.”

Stay connected to the Vine through the Word of God.  As Jesus says in today’s Gospel Reading, “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you . . . “  “Let the Word of Christ dwell in your richly,” Paul says in Colossians.  “If you continue in my Word,” Jesus promises, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  Stay connected to the Vine, through hearing, reading, studying God’s Word. 

Stay connected to the Vine, through prayer.  As Jesus says in today’s Gospel Reading, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”  “Do not be anxious about anything,” Paul says in Galatians, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Stay connected to the Vine, by remembering daily who you are through the waters of Holy Baptism, born again as a beloved child of God.  As John writes in today’s Epistle Reading, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  That is who YOU are!

Stay connected to the Vine, by eating and drinking the fruit of the Vine in Holy Communion, as you will in your First Communion this morning.  For, in this sacrament, you receive not only the wine, which is the earthly fruit of the vine, but you also partake in this sacrament of the spiritual fruit of the True Vine, the very body and blood of your Lord Jesus Christ, in, with, and under the wine, to strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the true faith unto life everlasting.  As Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . .  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit. . .  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Stay connected to the Vine, and go and bear his fruit in your life.

Amen.

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