Welcome to this morning's Worship service.
Worship today is led by Rev Christine Fox (not available via Zoom this week)
Our Zoom services are every other week and if you are not currently on our mailing list please contact Rev Christine: email@example.com
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God Bless x
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Rev Christine Fox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to all those who have been part of putting together this weeks service.
Below you can find this weeks Message. Click here to find the whole worship sheet.
Last week I wrote you a letter – recognising your need for fellowship alongside faith – fellowship is about close connection – ‘abiding’. Jesus’ words we heard today give us the image of abiding in God just as a branch needs to remain connected to the vine to be able to bear fruit. This fruit is the glory of the vine – who would be interested in a vine that didn’t produce grapes? As Jesus’ friends we do want to give God glory; if we’re honest we want to bear some kind of fruit, both as individuals and together. A fruitful life is good for others and it’s important for our own wellbeing. We can see from Jesus’ words two conditions for the vine to bear fruit – maybe these can also help us see how we can be fruitful in a way that will give glory to God.
Jesus begins with a heartfelt statement of how it is for him. He, like a vine, has been pruned by God. “my Father is the Gardener who cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit”. Though he recognises that it is necessary for him to be pruned, we can see that he feels constrained – he gave up all the glory of heaven to take on human form, so he could bear the fruit of the restoration of all creation to the Creator. What must it have felt like for Jesus? We can only imagine – based on our own experience of times of being limited; though maybe we have focussed on what we couldn’t do during lockdown restrictions rather than applying Jesus’ words – “God prunes every branch in me so it will be more fruitful” . I wonder if enforced restrictions on our individual and church lives have in part led to some ‘pruning’ – have some things that weren’t so fruitful been cut out?
And if so, can you see any signs of fruit appearing because of it? The kind of fruit we are talking about includes the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…. And if you have found a new joy, or peace because you’ve not been doing something you used to – ask yourself – why would we go back and try to revive it?
So the first key to bearing fruit is to see that when areas of our lives are ‘pruned’ we can bear more fruit!
And then the second condition for bearing fruit is all about that concept of ‘abiding’… modern versions of the Bible translate it ‘remaining’ – “Remain in me as I also remain in you” – Jesus uses that phrase ‘remain in’ eight times in the space of nine verses. This is the heart of fellowship – staying connected with Jesus and with people. We probably all know times when we feel far away from God, just as we have felt far away from someone that we love. And many things contribute to that feeling – mostly lack of the opportunities for connecting in the ways that we had found strengthen our relationship – be it physically seeing and holding them close, hearing their voice, or knowing about the details of their lives.
Gradually we are being given more opportunities to meet up with people. But how can we physically see Jesus, hold him close, hear his voice, know the details of his life? It would seem impossible now that he isn’t here walking on this earth. But wait – he promised to remain with us – in us! So here is the beauty of the church – and I’m talking about the people here – the way we stay connected with Jesus is through staying connected with each other – fellowship and faith both strengthening each other! And when that happens what comes out of it? What do we see appearing all over this vine? The fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness faithfulness and self-control… this is what we want to have time for – don’t we?
Over the next months of summer take the opportunity to rebuild fellowship – leave aside those old branches of your lives that weren’t bearing fruit, that maybe gave the opposite of peace and joy – and focus on remaining in Jesus, letting his Holy Spirit flow through us, and notice where you find the fruit appearing; and ask yourself if this is where Jesus is calling you to.
Someone once said they asked God what they should be doing for him, to set the world on fire – the answer came – ‘What is it that sets you on fire? That is what I want you to do’
Though we are mixing our analogies here, you can see that the people who are ‘on fire’ with a loving passion for what they are doing are the most fruitful. We know there are some things in life we have to just get on with because they have to be done – but how much easier it is to do them if we are also remaining in Jesus and are a part of a group of people who have the love of the Spirit flowing through them, and seeing the fruit of love, peace, joy, kindness and more, flourishing!
There will be time in our love feast for you to begin to think on these things.
Jesus says “Now remain in my love”.