Fifth Sunday of Easter Cycle B St Austin April 29, 2018
In the Gospel we just heard Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.” This past week I drove out to Fredericksburg, and I was surprised to see all the wineries that have sprung up between Austin and Fredericksburg. There are dozens of them. I don’t know who is drinking all that wine, but they just keep popping up. So our Gospel today about vines and vine-growers is genuinely Texan.
Jesus is the true vine. To be fruitful and productive we have to be rooted in Him. He says in today’s Gospel, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” It is a statement of profound closeness that is mutual. “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”
However, the word “remain” doesn’t have much allure or appeal to it. What do you think of when you hear the word “remain”? Doesn’t sound like the left-overs, what is left after all the good parts have been eaten? // All the good players are out on the court but the second stringers remain on the sidelines. // Who wants to remain when something attractive or fun or important is going on? “Remain” is just not a particularly attractive word.
The New Revised Standard Bible translates this as “Abide in me, as I abide in you.” ‘Abide’ instead of ‘remain.’ Well, that is a little better, but abide is rather archaic. We have the noun, an abode, from the same root. An abode is a place where you live. But how often do you refer to your house as your abode? Or say “I abide in Austin.” Not very often.
The New Jerusalem Bible takes this idea one step further. It translates this verse as “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.” Hmmm. To me, “make your home in me” has much more warmth and attractiveness than “remain in me.” Home has a sense of belonging, of security, of comfort and warmth, that “remain” does not.
Jesus is inviting us to make our home in Him, and He will make His home in us. That is a more attractive, certainly a more intimate, idea than “to remain”.
Jesus invites us into a very close and warm relationship with Him. Such a close relationship is challenging. You never know what Jesus is going to ask of you. But it is also very tender. And it is productive. Jesus assures us, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”
The result is that we are called, / expected, /commanded, to produce fruit. Not grapes obviously, but the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
These kind of wonderful fruits do not develop from mere “remaining”. These fruits come from going much deeper in a relationship with Jesus, from not just being present, but making our home in Him, and He in us. In relationship with Jesus is where we find our sense of well-being, of comfort, of meaning and purpose. We make our home in Him and He in us. And it is a relationship that is fertile, that is productive, that produces the wonderful and lasting fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
That is why Jesus tells us, “By this is my father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
So, make your home in Jesus. Invite Him to make His home in you. And you will truly be fruitful. AMEN.