A sermon preached by Bob Keller on Mother’s Day, May 10th, 2009, based upon John 15: 1 – 8 and 1 John 4: 7 – 12, entitled “Being Connected”
The topic today is ‘being connected.’ The current state of our world economy demonstrates our interdependence. However, our connectedness as Christians makes us unique.
Let’s look back to the Gospel lesson from John that David read just before the children’s sermon. In summary, we can look at this passage in some distinct parts that make the whole.
First, Jesus says, “I am the true vine.” The vine is the source of life and it carries the burden of creating the fruit. If a branch is cut off of the vine, it withers and dies. It certainly can bear no fruit.
Second, God the Father is the Gardener. Now what does a gardener do? We’re told in this passage that God does several things to ensure that the vine bears fruit. Most modern translations tell us that God “cuts off” or “takes away” every branch that does not bear fruit. On the surface this can be quite disturbing. How can a God that claims to love me simply “cut me off?” How can we read in the passage from 1 John chapter 4, that greatest truth of the Bible, that “God is Love” and have Him just cast us away? This really troubles me.
However, the original word from the Greek texts is “airo.” Airo has as many as four possible meanings. It can mean “to lift up or pick up”. It can mean “to lift up figuratively, as in lifting up one’s eyes or one’s voice”. Third, it can mean, “to lift up, with the added thought of lifting up in order to carry away”. Last, it can mean what most translators have taken it to mean, that is, “to remove”. But doesn’t that removal go against the overall theme of Christianity? There is compassion and forgiveness to be found everywhere else in Scripture and I think it applies here if we use the definition of “lifting up” rather than “removing.”
Admittedly, I had to do some reading about grapevines. What I found out seems to better fit that Jesus meant that God, the Gardener, lifts us up. After winter’s end, a vintner will survey his vines and pick up those that have fallen to the ground. Grapevines have these little shoots on their branches that will attempt to take root on their own if they are left in contact with the ground. It’s Jesus’ desire that we remain in Him and Him in us.
Next, God prunes us. Is this an example of “Why God lets bad things happen to good people?” Several volumes have been written on that topic and we’ll not go there today. Here’s another occasion where the original Greek text better tells the story.
The word “prune” also means “to clean.” A vintner will always check his vines for parasites and moss growth that can impair the production of good fruit. When he finds them, he prunes, or cleans, the vine so that it can be even more fruitful.
Then Jesus comes to His promise. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ….If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
The story is told of a native from a remote mountain village that had the opportunity to visit a large modern city for the first time. He could not bring much home with him, and he had little money. But he was amazed at the electric lights which he saw everywhere. So he bought a bag full of electric light bulbs and sockets with switches so he could turn them off and on.
Arriving home he hung the light bulbs in front of his home and on his and his neighbor’s trees. Everyone watched him with curiosity and asked him what he was doing, but he just smiled and said, “Just wait until dark–you’ll see.”
When night came he turned on the switches, but nothing happened. No one had told him about electricity. He did not know the light bulbs were useless unless connected to the source of their power.
That’s what Jesus was talking about. Being connected and staying connected and allowing Jesus to be in control of our switches so we can be useful lights, lights than dispel the darkness.
Can you see the parallels to motherhood? Today we recognize mothers, but, since an ever-increasing number of Fathers are “stay-at-home” Dads, I’m going to include them, too.
Can you imagine a child growing up who’s disconnected from proper parenting? Parent and child both lose. A child needs to have guidance. Remember, “Bring up a child in the way he should grow and when he is old, he will not depart from it?”
Those among us with older children know it all too well and those with younger children will learn it all too soon – there is joy and pain in parenting. And if God is our Father, He knows this as well.
We’ve taken the training wheels off of bicycles and watched them fall. And we’ve been there to pick them up. And then we watched them ride to the end of the street, wobbly at first, but making it there because we taught them how to ride.
We’ve watched them wander off in a crowded store because they were “a big kid now.” And we kept a watchful eye on them and were right there when they started to cry because they felt they were lost when they could no longer see you.
Of course we’ve kept them away from real injury. We didn’t allow them to touch hot stoves or to go in the deep end before they could prove they could swim in shallow water.
We’ve also exposed our hearts as they grew and were there when their hearts were broken for the first time. And their tears blended with ours as hearts healed and became the stronger for it.
It’s a process of “lifting up” and “pruning” their development.
Like I said before, some of you have been there, done that, and many of you even have the T-shirt to prove it! Many of you are on the parenthood journey now. Some have yet to start it. But we all have at least witnessed it from the child’s-eye view. If not from our own parents, we can witness it as being children of God.
Do you see the “connectedness?’ In the passage from 1 John we learned that God is Love. And that “everyone that loves has been born of God and knows God. …..This is Love; not that we loved God but that He loved us. …..since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We can only accomplish this when we stay connected to God. Whether the example of the grapevine works for you or perhaps you’re better suited to think of being “plugged in” like the light bulb. Whether you think of being a child of God or think of your role as a Mother makes no difference. We can only find joy in our lives when we’re connected to God and to one another. He is the Gardener that will lift us up, prune us when necessary and He delights in us when we bear good fruit.
I’d like to conclude today with a tribute to Mothers written by the late Erma Bombeck:
When God Created Mothers
When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into his sixth day of “overtime” when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”
And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?
· She has to be completely washable, but not plastic;
· Have 180 movable parts… all replaceable;
· Run on black coffee and leftovers;
· Have a lap that disappears when she stands up;
· A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair;
· And six pairs of hands.”
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands… no way.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord. “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ’What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, ’I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”
“Lord,” said the angel, touching His sleeve gently, “Go to bed. Tomorrow…”
“I can’t,” said the Lord, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick… can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger… and can get a nine-year-old to stand under a shower.”
The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.
“But she’s tough!” said the Lord excitedly. “You cannot imagine what this mother can do or endure.”
“Can it think?”
“Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You You were trying to push too much into this model.”
“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.”
“What’s it for?”
“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
“You are a genius,” said the angel.
The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” He said.
Please pray with me:
Father, we thank you for Jesus and that we can be connected to you through him and through your Word. We thank you for giving us the responsibility of motherhood and for so many examples of those bearing fruit by going through it with You. We ask you now to help us see your Love as a shining light to follow toward being better connected with You, through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen