5th Sunday of Easter – B LSB #’s 577, 691, 919
Text – John 15:4b
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO?
The world you & I live in is such a busy place, with so many things going on all at once, that time management is one of the most crucial abilities a person can have in order to be seen as someone who is successful. When there is more on your plate than can possibly be accomplished you have to set priorities so you can get the most important things done.
Since each of us has our own way of deciding what is valuable & what is not each of us, given the same list of things to do, will come up with a different set of priorities in order to rank the items on that list. For example, some people will rank working at the top of their list. Others will rank relationships at the top. Some would put their favorite video game as #1.
Within relationships, or within communities, there is often conflict because of the different way in which people make their list of priorities. Should writing the sermon be #1, or should hanging the new kitchen light fixture be at the top? Isn’t it your turn to walk the cat today? It was my priority yesterday.
How do you decide what is the most important thing to do? It’s a question that even God is aware of, because He knows how we struggle to make decisions in the brokenness of this world. Some of His more well-known advice on the topic comes to us from Matthew 6:33, “…seek first the kingdom of God & His righteousness, & all these things will be added to you.”
However, that advice is going to look very different from one person to the next once we get into the specific details for each of us. One thing it meant for me was leaving my home & my electrical business to go to seminary for studying to be a pastor. In my case, that was seeking first the kingdom of God, but clearly that wasn’t the case for most of you. There are literally as many different ways of seeking first the kingdom of God as there are people. And on some days there may be a hundred different ways in which you are confronted with a choice either to seek first the kingdom of God or to seek first your own kingdom.
The Gospel reading for today is much more general in nature, yet it still addresses the same issue, “What is the most important thing you can do?” Here, Jesus again is talking about priorities, but the number of variations has been greatly reduced.
Let’s think of how specifically each one of us is called to seek first the kingdom of God as the output, or in terms of the Gospel reading, think of that as the fruit. Our Lord does not call each of us to bear the exact same fruit. Some of us are pastors. Some of us are any one of a thousand other callings. I’ll bet almost none of you have ever taken a cat for a walk.
Let’s think now, of the words, from the Gospel of John, as the input, or in terms of Jesus’ teaching, as the Vine. Here, there are not as many different important things to do as there are people. Here, there is only one most important thing to do. And that is to abide in Christ; to remain connected to the Vine.
“As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4b ESV) No matter what your calling in life may be, no matter what fruit God calls you to bear, no matter what the output of your life should be, it will be nothing unless you are connected to Jesus.
The Word of God gives us three ways, or three means to be so connected. One of those ways is Baptism. In fact, that’s how God connects you to Himself in the first place, if your parents are children of God who follow His teaching. If that’s true, then they bring you to the waters of Baptism so the Holy Spirit can give you spiritual life. But there is also the Word of God which commands Baptism & gives that water the power to create life within you. That Word also has the ability to operate on its own, without water. God’s Word tells us that faith comes by hearing, so that some people, upon hearing the voice of Jesus in God’s Word, naturally follow Him. They follow Him because the Word of God gave them life as they heard that Word.
Finally, the third means is the Lord’s Supper. There, Jesus comes to us personally & physically to strengthen our faith in Him & to provide healing from the damaging effects of sin. All three of these means keep us connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ. All three of these means keep us alive to God & dead to sin.
Abiding in the Vine is the most important thing we can do in all of life here on earth. So we come to God’s house to abide in Jesus. Staying away from God’s house is to starve our faith & spiritual life of the nourishment it needs in a world filled with the corrupting influences of sin. And on top of that, our own sins damage our connection to the Vine.
Yet Baptism, God’s Word & Holy Communion have been given to Christians by God to repair our connection to the Vine. If we abide in Jesus then we will bear fruit. If we do not abide in Jesus, eventually we die & stop bearing fruit. God knows that, so He didn’t just bring us to faith & then leave us to fend for ourselves.
Thinking that you can “be” a Christian without going to church is thinking that fails to account for reality. As the letter of 1 John stated, the antichrist is already in the world. We do not live in a safe or healthy environment. Remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy is in the commandments for our benefit.
Being in God’s house & being in God’s Word, remembering our Baptism & receiving the Lord’s Supper are far & away the most important thing we can do. And God’s Spirit enables us to do them. Amen.
Rooted deep in Christ our Master, Christ our pattern & our goal, teach us, as the years fly faster, goodness, faith & self-control. Fruitful trees, the Spirit’s tending, may we grow till harvests cease; till we taste, in life unending, heaven’s love & joy & peace. Amen. LSB 691:3-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet