Rev. Rosemary Webb
3rd May 2015
Are We The Vine or The Fruit?

We have fruit bushes in our garden, some produce fruit and we nurture them the best we can, pruning the dead branches, watering and feeding. There is something good about watching the berries grow and ripen. We get a feeling of achievement, but though we tend them it is, of course, God who creates them. And I suspect that last year I became too pleased with my achievements because the squirrels beat me to it and ate them first! There was a lesson for me.

So much in life is judged by success, have we achieved all we can, are our children achieving, everything today seems to be judged by tables – but do tables tell us the real story, is there more to life than who comes top. Of course we want the best, but are we correctly judging what is best?

In the passage from John’s Gospel Jesus is linking the growth seen in the vineyard with life, how we can grow and be sustained by God. For God is the true gardener, the vine, he sent Jesus to sow the seeds of faith, but he then turned to the disciples to nurture the seeds, to nurture the people around them so that they grow in faith. And today God looks to us, today’s disciples, to carry on the nurturing. Today God is challenging not just Florence Rose’s parents and Godparents to nurture her in the faith, but he is challenging each one of us to sustain Florence and all people on their journey to faith.

To nurture is to love and guide, not to judge by ability, by whom could be the most successful, but to love and guide all God’s children. For God created us all in his image. I don’t believe that in God’s kingdom there are winners or losers but a mixture of people who are full of human frailties but who know and love God.

In the passage from Acts we see how God challenged Philip, the Jewish convert. Philip knew that God was asking him to talk to the man he had just met, but to Philip there seemed to be huge problems in that for this man was not a Jew but an Ethiopian court official, someone of a different religion, race and social class. We heard how when Philip went up to him he was reading a passage from Isaiah – believed to be a prophesy about Jesus; his being humiliated, denied justice and then being crucified.

Philip knew he had the task of explaining the Crucifixion, of teaching that Christ sacrificed himself on the Cross for our sins, that he was willing to do this because of his love, his love as the son of the Father for us all.

Philip had to remember that the love he had for God, is a love that acknowledges that God loves him so much that all his mistakes, all his lack of love and understanding of others didn’t stop God using him as a disciple, don’t stop God loving him. He knew it but how could he explain this? We know God sees us all as his children, we are all different with different abilities but that that is not important to God, what is important is that we love him and love each other.

When the Ethiopian asked who Isaiah was talking about in the passage Philip saw the opportunity of telling the Good News of Jesus, of talking of his own baptism, how baptism overcomes all barriers. That through Baptism God calls us to see his light, to follow Jesus, to begin our journey of faith.

That through Baptism we are never alone for not only will we have God’s love but the love and support of fellow Christians, that we all become part of God’s vine. First to be loved and nurtured and then able also to nurture and show God’s love to others.

The message Philip gave to the Ethiopian was powerful enough for him to understand God’s love, to see it as the true way forward. When they came to the pool he asked Philip to baptise him into the Christian faith, so that he too could become a follower of Christ.

Philip shows how by moving from being the one who is nurtured into the one who nurtures we can grow the kingdom, be true disciples. WE are all called to trust God enough to reach out and draw our neighbours into the faith, to help them see the light, which will give them the strength to turn to Christ and follow in his footsteps.

JOHN 15:1-8