Following God’s Path and Plan – Up…with God
John 15:5-11

At OELC we are again at a fork in the road, there is a change in ministry structure about to take place again.  There are a couple of ways we can approach this fork, we can see it as a negative thing, that we may have failed in the mission and vision that God has given us, or we may see it as a new opportunity to follow God’s path and plan for us at this time and in this place.  The timing is right for a series of sermons based around the theme Following God’s Path and Plan.  Today is about looking up, to God and seeking his will and purpose for us. 

Our first waypoint on the road is a bit like a roadblock; where we need to pause, take some time to reflect on all of the wonderful things that God has done for us here over the time that Christie has been here serving us.  Then we need to take some time to prayerfully consider the direction we take from now on, we need to centre our contemplation on God’s Word for us and be guided by him in all that we do.  We need to look to God for our strength, our comfort and our direction.

We could potentially head off all guns blazing in some new direction for mission and ministry, or we could continue to consolidate and remain (there’s that word from our Gospel reading), and remain in our current path and solidify the ministries that are already taking place. 

The risk we face is breaking a branch or our branch off of the vine as we shake things up and do things differently.  We need to remain connected to the vine, who as described by him, is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.  He is our vine and we, you and I, are the branches. 

Christie’s not the vine, I’m not the vine, Pastor Mark isn’t the vine and neither are you.  WE ARE THE BRANCHES!  We need to remain attached to the vine, attached to Jesus in order to bear fruit and to prosper his kingdom.

If we remain (or abide to use the more traditional term) in him and his Word, when we ask whatever we wish in prayer it will be granted.  Now the first thing we do here is start to think that if we pray for that nice new car or job, or boat we will automatically get it given to us by God, you know, like winning the lottery or a raffle.  That’s not what Jesus is saying with this text. 

When we remain in the Word of God, our hearts desires will be in line with God’s will and so our prayers will also be in tune.  When we ask God for what fits into his path and plan for us and our congregation, our prayers will be answered. 

We need to look to the Lord and his strength, seek his face always, as we heard in our first reading, in doing so we are connected, attached, grafted to the vine, the goodness and nutrients that flow through the vine also flow through to us.  We are connected to the vine through our baptism, as life unfolds we can either remain with him or not.
Earlier in the book of John Jesus explained to his disciples an important means of remaining or abiding in him.  Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.
So abiding in Jesus or remaining with him is to read his Word, pray, and receive the sacrament in worship, that is to be connected to the source and fount of all things.
As we also heard earlier, the consequence of not remaining in Jesus the vine is that we begin to wither and dry up.  If you’ve ever seen a branch that has broken away from the trunk of a tree or a vine, it doesn’t take long for the leaves to start to shrivel and the wood to become brittle and easy to break.  We are no different.  The longer we are removed from God’s word and his sacraments the less likely we are to think about God, or pray to him or follow his commandments.  We may not be at the point of death or being thrown into the fire, but the connection isn’t so great any more, we start to bear a little less fruit than maybe we used to.

When we decide to stay away from worship or Bible Study groups to rest, or to avoid a conflict or even to have a holiday we run the risk of cutting ourselves off from the fount and source of all things.  We also cut ourselves off from a caring and nurturing community.  That’s where our care and contact network is important, to keep you connected with the congregation, to provide additional care for you and to pass on information if you are sick or in hospital or just away.  It helps us help you remain in the body of Christ, his church and to stay connected to his Word and sacraments and of course to pray for you.

As we embark on the next step on our journey as people of God in this community we need to remain in his Word, in the sacraments and pray for his will to be done in us and through us.  As opportunities arise and as we are suitably gifted by God, we need to take action, as we remain in him and bear fruit for the kingdom of God in this place.  We must take the time to seek God and his strength, to seek his face always as we live out our faith in the community that God has placed us in.

We are all here for a reason and a purpose.  Having faith doesn’t just bear fruit at the end of time, it is also for the here and now, as we abide in Jesus, as we remain in him and he in us.  As we live out this life and reach out into the community that surrounds us, as we abide in his Word and are empowered by his Word and the Holy Spirit, we have a share in his joy, a joy that will be complete.

What more could we want in this lifetime or the next?  Should we look to the god’s of the nations that are mere idols, or should we seek the one who created and sustains us and brings us new life?

Jesus said, I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit!