Friday, May 18, 2012

Mother's Day

Easter 6
May 13, 2012  -  Mother’s Day
Fr. Philip Eberhart

Bearing Fruit In Christ



Good morning … 

And especially this morning, good morning to all of our ladies.  Today is Mother’s
Day and we pray for and bless all of our moms, but we honor all of our ladies today. The roses in the back are for you to take home and enjoy – and they are for all the ladies here today.

Today, appropriately, our Gospel reading is about bearing fruit.  And in preparing I had to ask the simple and foundational question, “What IS fruit?”   According to Strong’s Concordance the outline of biblical usage includes:
1) fruit = yield
       a) the fruit of the trees, vines, of the fields
                                         (something that we “harvest”)
       b) the fruit of the womb, i.e.  progeny, posterity, children
                                         (the physical “yield” of our oneness or union)
2) that which originates or comes from something, an effect, result
       a) work, act, deed   (e.g., the Yield of the Spirit)
       b) advantage, profit, utility  (e.g., the Yield of Righteousness)
       c) praises, which are presented to God as a thank offering  (the Yield of Thankfulness)
       d) to gather fruit (i.e. a reaped harvest) into life eternal (as into a granary), is used in
                 fig. discourse of those who by their labors have fitted souls to obtain eternal life
                                    (The Yield of a Christian’s Witness)

So FRUIT can be many things,  it can take many forms, but it is always the “yield of living.”  Jesus made a clear distinction between good fruit and bad fruit.  So our lives can, as trees and bushes and fields can, have bad fruit.  Or  NO FRUIT.  Jesus also told parables about trees and fields where fruit was not abounding.  The parable of the soils (the sower) is about the fruit that the field or soil was able to produce under certain conditions – and interestingly, even the good soil had varying levels of productivity in Jesus parable, “some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.” 

Earlier in this very chapter is where Jesus was walking on the way to Gethsemane, through the vineyards of the Kidron Valley between Jerusalem and the Garden, and as he walked, he taught.  The disciples following along, he pointed to the vines, perhaps laden with grapes or fruit of some kind, and said:
Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 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. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
This was our gospel reading last week, and then this week’s:
Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."

Jesus begins this parable or teaching with one of His “I AM” statements.  I AM THE TRUE VINE.”  And, Jesus continues, we are “THE BRANCHES.”  The Fathers role is to “dress” or tend the vine and its branches, pruning, cleansing them in order that they will produce fruit.  This is an on-going process as the goal of the process is to move us from “no fruit” to “fruit” to “more fruit” to “much fruit.”  It is God’s design and plan that you live a life that is “fruitful” in Christ.  And there is the Key -  IN  CHRIST !!!   Jesus uses the word “ABIDE.”  We are all familiar with his warning, “… apart from Me you can do …  NOTHING.”  Everything, therefore, depends on our ABIDING.   Our abiding IN Jesus Christ.  So what does “abiding” mean?  It’s used 120 times in the NT and translated half of those times as ABIDE. Its also translated with words like remain, dwell, continue, tarry, endure and so forth.  It is defined as
“to continue to be present” or “to be held, kept, continually.”  In terms of our state of being
IN CHRIST it means, “to remain as one, not to become another or different.”

Abiding means we have staying power!  For us in our century I think the greatest challenge we face is our ability to abide, especially in the face of all the distractions that we have in our world – in our day-to-day lives.  We are an ADD culture – that is we have an Abiding Deficit Disorder!!!  It is because we do not ATTEND or give ATTENTION to our life IN Christ.  Jesus often gets pushed off to the margins of our life – and this isn’t a new thing!   Keep in mind that the famous line we quote to unbelievers, about which the painting was made:  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” wasn’t written to unbelievers – It was written to the Church of Laodicea in Rev. 3, verse 20!!!  That is... TO US!

Paul’s prayer for the Church in Ephesus asked that they be “rooted and grounded in love” – listen:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Friends, THAT is abiding.  That was Paul’s prayer for the people he loved and it is my prayer for you today.  It is out of that kind of relationship that we come to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.  It is out of that kind of connection that the Fruit of the Spirit, mentioned by Paul in his letter to Galatia, grows in our lives.  We cannot produce this fruit on our own!  It is the outcome – the yield – of oneness with Jesus Christ.

Abiding is the key to fruitfulness!  It is not our part to “worry” about our fruitfulness and watch out for God, who is coming to lop us off the vine.  That is truly “fruit-less” thinking.  Abiding means turning our attention to Jesus – attending to Him and to His Life within us.  Attending to our time with Him in His Word and in Prayer.  Attending to our time in Fellowship with His people and Attending to our Communion in His Grace.

Sounds strangely like another verse that we’ve heard a lot about here:

And they devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”

Sounds strangely like our big three BE-attitudes here at REZ:

Willingness – Availability – Obedience  !!

Equals

Bearing Fruit, bearing More fruit and bearing Much Fruit.

Let me pray it again, after Paul:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Amen and Amen.

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