TEXTS: Acts 10:44-48; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:1, 4-5, 9-17
OPENING PRAYER: “Speak, O Lord, as we come to you, to receive the food of Your Holy Word. Take Your truth, plant it deep in us; Shape and fashion us in Your likeness.” ( – Keith Getty, Stuart Townend) Now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Strength, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen.
“BUT I CHOSE YOU”
Garrett, Tucker, Ryan, Rickey, Dylan and Sam; Erin (newly baptized); family and friends, grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace. Amen.
“I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus said to his disciples. He was preparing them for the next chapter in all of their lives. Jesus would soon be completing his earthly tasks and leaving them to carry on his mission. Jesus was sharing from his heart all the love he had so that they might hang onto his love, remember and claim his promises, especially when the journey became difficult and challenging.
“I am the vine, you are the branches.” In this “I AM” statement of Jesus, we hear echoes from the Old Testament. “I AM” – All that I will be, All that I am, All that you will ever need, the source of your love, my love the heartbeat of the universe…” I AM the vine that brings nourishment and support. And “you,” “you”, here is in the plural sense of the word – for a solo person can not be branches. In order to bear much fruit which is the love of God in Christ Jesus for the sake of the world, “you” as in all of us, need to remain connected to the vine of God’s love.
In John’s Gospel, the word Abide is huge. In fact, it shows up 44 times – from the Greek to the English it also translates as “staying, remaining, continuing.” John is making a very strong point here for all who hear this word. Abide encompasses the relationship God has in Jesus. Abide encompasses the role of the Spirit in binding covenant promises and building relationships; and, Abiding enables us to be the children of God through the water and the word, in the bread and in the wine.
In other words, to Abide means to continue in God’s love.
The Holy Spirit is given as a gift to abide with us, to walk alongside us as a promissory note if you will, that indeed, all of the covenant promises we receive in Jesus, are a done deal! As we have been grafted onto and continue to grow securely in the vine, we can freely move out, expanding in our love for God and in our love for one another. Love is the trademark fruit of truth when we abide in God’s love for us. Love is the source and fruit of our call to service.
For Jesus then, and for parents now, there are last minute reminders. Lists of things to remember. Extra love shared because a new beginning is just around the corner. For any adult who has nurtured youngsters into young adulthood, you well understand the mixed emotions of preparing to send them out on their own into the world. This sending out also brings changes for you as well!
And yet, as we lift up and celebrate our High School Seniors getting ready to graduate, we know – and we want you to know – that you are not going out on your own by yourself. Jesus goes with you. And our prayers go with you as well, that you would remain connected to the vine. Even though distance may separate us, we remain connected to each other as we remain/abide connected with Jesus Christ.
It has been a privilege to have journeyed together, with you (plural), since many of you began 6th grade confirmation. We, (as your confirmation leaders, Sunday School teachers, Pastors, Youth Directors, parents and congregation) have sought to teach you and model for you some very important faith life skills such as prayer and praying for each other. Another life skill we have hoped to instill in you has been to show you how to find your way through the scripture, underlining verses of promise and comfort. So, when you are packing up your supplies for college, be sure to include your Bible! And don’t be afraid to open it up and read it! It is a way to remain/abide in God’s love.
We trust the Holy Spirit will continue to nurture the seeds of faith that have been planted in you. The Holy Spirit will also bring those things to your mind at the appropriate times offering hope and wisdom, challenge and comfort.
It has been a blessing to have traveled together to the seminary several times. We have seen that the Body of Christ, the Family of God, is not limited to this building or a specific pastor or even specific places or times. Jesus, the great I Am, the one true vine, is with you in all situations and in all places. It is our prayer that you would seek out friendships, campus ministries and congregations that would continue to nurture your growth in faith and continue to challenge you in your love and service to the world. Indeed, we have already witnessed you bearing fruit from these experiences!
[Hold up bag of Swedish Fish candies)
One of the favorite “rituals” or reminders of our journey in faith together has been the sharing of your “chosen” snack – Swedish Fish. (I wish you could see their faces right now!!!) That ritual has bonded you together in more than one way! J May it also remind you of the other nourishing meals we have shared together – particularly at the table for the Lord’s Supper. We all need this food of mercy and forgiveness in order to continue to grow in Christ’s love. Continue to seek to be fed at the Lord’s Table.
This morning we say, “Thanks be to God!” for new growth – for new chapters – for new branches abiding in God’s love:
+ TBTG! With Erin’s baptism, we celebrate and welcome her into the Lord’s family. We are excited that in Erin, a new tendril of Jesus’ love is growing and reaching out in love in her and through her!
+ TBTG! Seniors, we celebrate “you” (plural) with your upcoming high school graduation. There is new growth taking place even as the branches are maturing and are budding with the promise of bearing much fruit!
+ TBTG! For Our Savior’s – this congregation as a vineyard of branches, abiding in Christ and moving forward through a time of transition. New growth is taking place amid pruning and fertilizing. We celebrate with all of the branches which are budding and are bearing fruit through baptisms, graduations, the leadership provided by our Interim Pastor Loren, for volunteers serving on transition teams and on Call Committee ballots, council and staff, Ministry Teams and prayer warriors who pray for clarity of vision for mission; all of which is done for the sole purpose of bearing fruit and bringing honor and glory to God.
+ TBTG! That deep within the vineyard of this 15th chapter of John’s Gospel, there is a wonderful promise. It is for “you branches” (plural) as a reminder of God’s mercy and love for you. Write it on a post-it note and stick it in your wallet or on your bathroom mirror, or put it on the dashboard of your truck or car…be sure to underline it in your Bible. When those times of life come (and they will) where challenging storms rain havoc on the branches, or when you need reassurance of God’s love for you, repeat this verse to yourself: Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16)
Go ahead. Say it aloud. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” What does it mean for you that Jesus chose you?!
Now, I want you to turn to your neighbor and say to them, “Jesus chose you.” What does this promise mean for your neighbor? And for you in your relationship with your neighbor knowing that Jesus has also chosen them?
Knowing we have been chosen by Jesus, together we can grow into the next chapter: knowing that we are loved, forgiven, and given a commandment that will shape our lives and that will make a difference in the world. “Love one another.” Jesus’ command fits in with whatever vocation or task God calls each of us to do.
“You did not choose me but I chose you,” said Jesus, “and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
Let us pray.
“[May] the light of Christ be seen today, In our acts of love and our deeds of faith. Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us, All Your purposes for Your glory.” ( – Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)
God’s blessings be with you all as we move forward in Jesus’ name. Amen.
– Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry