After a year of physical distancing and mask wearing I am looking forward to spending time being with friends. Two weeks ago, I enjoyed visiting a family to prepare their father’s funeral. Instead of us having to meet on zoom or face time, we were able to sit in the garden on a beautiful, sunny day and have a cup of tea and refreshments together.
Thanks to the quick roll out of the vaccination and the falling numbers of those infected with COVID 19, the world around us seems to be waking up. In two months, hopefully we will be allowed to meet without restrictions, hug, eat together and drink the wine of communion. We have our first wedding of the year this month and baptisms restart in July.
Beautiful blossom now adorn our trees and we look forward to sharing the fruit to come. Jesus reminds in our readings that fruitfulness comes from God. He is the vine and we are the branches.
We are enfolded by God’s love for Jesus said his father is the vine dresser.
1 John speaks of how God showed his love toward us by sending his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” He is speaking about a special type of love, a love that we can only have if we have God in our lives because it is God’s love loving through us. We know God's love, first and foremost, through what Jesus did for us on Calvary. Christian love is sacrificial and requires a deliberate choice on our part. In our fallen nature, this is the most difficult love for us to have for one another.
1 John writes that God abides and dwells in those who acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God., God lives in them and they live in God.”
It is good that we want to draw closer to each other, to give and receive love. 1 John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God.”
Our primary relationship, however, the one we need to place and protect above all others is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
When under pressure it is easy to skip prayer times and put our work, leisure and other relationships first. When we have worked hard we can see the results whereas often we cannot see what God is doing through us and in us as we spend time with him.
The life of Jesus, the vine, flows into us when we abide in him. The fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, generosity and self control are seen in our lives even when we are not aware of these qualities ourselves.
Being nourished by the vine is deeply satisfying for us and for others. As we bear fruit, others should be able to see, hear, touch, and taste the goodness of God.
Jesus reminds us that abiding in him is vital if his life is to flow out through us. Christians are designed to bear the fruit that brings new life to others. If we do not abide in Christ, the life within us withers and dies and we become useless. “Without me” Jesus says, “you can do nothing.”
Abiding in Christ is not easy. Our whole life is connected to him all the time. He is present in every conversation and in every activity whether we acknowledge him or not.
Sometimes what happens at work, at home or within our personal lives doesn’t fit in with the way Jesus wants us to live. We may have deliberately sinned or filled our time wrongly. When we dwell in Christ, pruning takes place and what makes us less effective is taken away or our conscience tells us we need to get rid of it. We are pruned Jesus says to make us more effective.
Because fruitfulness comes out of our relationship with Christ, we are specifically asked to pray that our loved ones and those in the world who deny Christ will come to know him. We have been doing this since 2016 from Ascension Day to Pentecost when we remember the out pouring of the Holy Spirit and pray for a fresh outpouring in our own lives. The initiative is called “Thy Kingdom Come.” As we pray for ourselves and others we will draw closer to Christ and he will be able to use us more readily. There is plenty of material online and in the church office to help us.
1 John asserts that “God is love” and that he abides in us so that his love might be perfected in us. “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear”
Our Archbishops use this quotation in their forward in the beginning of their tome, “Living in Love and Faith.”
Instead of being known for our love, Christians in our rapidly changing society have been known for what and who we are against. The Church has been viewed as a hypocritical anachronism from a past age which judges those from the LGBTI+ community and those whose relationships have been broken without listening to their stories.
“Living in Love and Faith” offers Christians from different backgrounds and life experiences an opportunity to sit down and talk together in a safe space instead of fighting each other on committees.
Through reading the scriptures and praying together it enables us to nurture each other with the life we have received from Christ, to see LGBTI+ Christians as our brothers and sisters in Christ, to recognise that marriage customs and family life has changed radically and seek a way of moving forward together without the Church of England splitting.
In doing so we are given an opportunity to model the Trinity. God is a loving community working together as a team to share his life with us and enfold us in his arms.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit affirm and encourage. They are relational; they communicate. They pray and know what is on each other’s heart and mind, submitting to each other in self sacrificial love.
As we enjoy being together again and our lives become busier, it is important that we don’t forget to spend time abiding in Christ, being nourished and fed within his loving community.
May his love and life flow through us to others.