2018 04 29 Sara Holland Sermon
Scripture: John 15:1-8
Title: The Moving Home
Prayer – May the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts and minds be acceptable to You, oh God, my rock and redeemer. Amen.
I wonder how many of you moved around a lot growing up? Perhaps you grew up as a child of a military parent or there was another occupation that had you moving around a lot as a child or adolescent. For some children and youth this can be better or worse. My family moved fairly often and now as an adult I have mixed feelings about how the moves impacted me.
On the one hand, I had a hard time getting and keeping friends, on the other hand I am quite good at making friends in many different types of environments. My dad likes to make the joke that they used to have to tie a pork chop around my neck to get the dog to play with me. Thanks dad. . . .
Anyway, the truth is that it can be really really good for a kid to move around a lot and it can be really really hard as well. Of course, it can totally depend on a kid’s personality.
Even if you only move 30 – 45 mins from one home to the other, a child can feel cut off to some degree because they have to start all over in a different school system. And let’s face it – that is not easy. The kiddo may sit there, pretending to read a book or messing on their cell phone while the other kids socialize. This is obviously not an easy situation for a kid.
However, a kid might also learn deeply what it means to have home in their heart, not in a building. And sure enough, that can also be a statement about God for an adolescent. It is hard for our bodies and our minds but when we feel this novel idea deep down we know it is true – home is _______ that’s right – where the heart is – not in a building. It is not in any certain 25000 square foot home or any little 800 square foot home. It is where love is created. It is where we abide. What might it mean to abide in love? Abiding in love.
A kid who moves can feel cut off like a branch from a vine. Cut off, sometimes finding resilience and sometimes not.
Check out the picture on the front of the bulletin, behind the welcoming covenant. This vine has been cut and has found a new home in healthy soil; it has a new beginning. There are times when branches are broken or cut from the vine and they do not immediately break off. In fact, sometimes they may repair themselves with the original vine. They may find resilience even when broken. It all depends on their journey.
Being cut off, or broken off, like the child who changes schools, one must keep living.
For a vine like the one to my left here – POINT- all I had to do was place the broken branch into some water and in no more than 2 weeks new roots will develop, resilience will be shown. A new beginning.
With a succulent plant, we can see the roots reaching out into the air, searching for their path; true examples of moving.
The heart of the plant is growth. The heart of the child at a new school, in a new neighborhood is growth. And the child never, no never, does this growth alone. They do their growth in community.
“Abide in me as I in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself.”
We need God, we need Jesus. We need a home; a new home or a home we have had.
A vine is a home for a branch. And yes, a branch can become a vine of its own perhaps, biologically and in the plant world but in the spiritual world we NEED our ancestors to be our vines, and even more importantly, we need our God.
What we know about the gospel of John is that Jesus is saying very plainly throughout the text that he is the one they have been waiting for and that people ought to believe. The images of Jesus in John are generally more authoritative than the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
But for Jesus to declare plainly that we have a home, that we have a vine and that we may be a branch – thanks be to God. This is what we need; this is a calling.
In our scripture today Jesus is describing a pattern for a believer. We may believe and abide; the text goes on from the portion read today and we hear that we should abide in God’s love.
Jesus is there to fulfill what had not been fulfilled. In Isaiah we the prophet profess:
“Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He [God] dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it. . .”
“I planted you as a choice vine.”
And in Ezekiel:
“Like a vine in a vineyard transplanted by the water, fruitful and full of branches from abundant water.”
This image of the Vine and us as the branch can help us envision coming to God, as a true home and asking ourselves what it means to be a branch.
What does it mean to be a branch?
We have established that it means we have a home in God, our strong Vine. But what does it mean for our action, for our way of being in the world?
In our text today, we have heard not just that we may abide with God but that if we are abiding with God and with love we are abiding in God’s words. If we only go but a few more verses in our scripture it is stated very plainly – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
I think as relatively comfortable Christians it can be easy for us to shield ourselves from the fact that so many people are out there in the world longing to be loved. So many people, longing for belovedness. What I have heard about the terrorist attack in Toronto is that it was likely based in hate that came from a person not feeling that they belonged. This person felt they had no position in deep interpersonal relationship and that because of this lacking and the vitriol that consumed them they lashed out, they snapped. Do we see? Our calling is already but not yet met. We are declaring our belovedness here today, but we MUST, we MUST help others know they are loved. We must show love.
And this is hard. I would add, this is hard especially in New England. Many people say to me, why did you move to New England? And sometimes following up with – people are mean up here. I always respond – “No, people mind their own business. I like it.” And yes, I do think it is true. But what do we miss in that culture? We have to ask ourselves, no matter our culture, how am I showing others or acting out the knowledge that all people are God’s beloved children? We are the branches, the people of God, attached to this amazing divine Vine, Jesus, with the vineyarder God, Creator, Sustainer. Jesus’ proclaiming this metaphor and moving on to state plainly the law regarding care for neighbor has to move us to reconciliation.
I want to get right to the heart of the matter that the book by Allan Aubrey Boesak & Curtiss Paul DeYoung to ensure that we do not gloss over the simple and hard truth – reconciliation, as in the biblical text, is radical. And if you think about it that makes perfect sense as the commandment named here is pretty radical. Love each other as Jesus loved humanity.
Jesus came to change the order of the day, to remind the Pharisees of the Year of Jubilee, which saw to it that each person would be made ‘right’ with neighbor through the erasing of debts. This was counter cultural; and in the book that Pete has recommended we start reading and what we hear about reconciliation is this:
“Reconciliation can be understood as exchanging places with ‘the other,’ overcoming alienation through identification, solidarity, restoring relationships, positive change, new frameworks, and a rich togetherness that is both spiritual and political.”
Reconciliation is a tall order and it starts with abiding in love; being one with our vine, understanding our soil or our ancestors in the faith.
Lives can be changed and even saved from attacks like the one in Toronto this week if we, the people of God can reach out into the world and profess or show others their belovedness.
If you are abiding in love, you are moving in the world.
This home, with God, our reconciling and radical God, it is a moving home. Perhaps it is a RV that we have for 10 years and see the country with; perhaps it is a tent that we use in the summer. It is a moving home; maybe it is your bicycle, a walker, a wheelchair. This moving home abides in God and carries with it a Spirit deep enough for all people. This moving home stands beside those most in need, reminding them they are not alone. We, the people of God, are called to show others they are beloved. That is reconciliation. That is radical. Abide in God, have a moving home in the Spirit Divine, the great Vine. Be a branch reaching to the light and show that light to others. Amen.
Boesak, Allan Aubrey, and Curtiss Paul DeYoung. Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2012.
Allan Aubrey Boesak and Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2012), 12.