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Forgiven Fruitful Branches

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That the hearers will receive the comfort that Jesus is the true vine that provides them, the branches, the nutrients of life.

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Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our Resurrected King. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Now that the long winter is over, I will get to participate in an activity that I enjoy. Planting my garden. From the vegetables in the back to flowers in the front. One of my favorite garden flowers is the Geranium. I first encountered Geraniums not just as my mom planted the flower bed, but in school. We would plant small Geraniums and bring them home in milk cartons. What is remarkable about this plant is that they continue to bloom over the summer, even after they look like they are dying. When a bloom dies, pinch or cut it off and a new bloom quickly grows to take its place. This plant needs to be pruned and bear more “fruit” so to speak.
This is what our Gospel for today is teaching us. The Father prunes back the branches of the precious vine. These branches are you and me! As he prunes back the branches, he even provides us with a great gift. A gift of forgiveness. Pruned and cleansed, we bear new fruit through the nutrients of the Vine…Jesus Christ.
You bear new and abundant fruit because you are the forgiven branches on the vine of Christ! Jesus Christ in our text as he is teaching the disciples on the night he was betrayed speaks these words:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

You are branches on the vine of Christ! In contrast to the world, the world that hates you, Jesus describes His church as a well-cultivated vineyard - receiving the proper care and nutrients to grow and produce good fruit. The sinful world is a wild and uncultivated world. There are wild vines and wild branches that produce sour fruit or no fruit at all. When a grapevine is wild and not cultivated it is much more sour than a well-cultivated vine.
The world is filled with these wild branches that need to be cut off and thrown into the fire and burned. Apart from the nutrients of the true vine a branch cannot bear fruit! Apart from a well-cared for vine the branch is not cared for either and withers and dies. Apart from Jesus, His Word, His Sacraments, His forgiveness, His love, His grace, His mercy…you cannot bear fruit. When you wander away from these things you become unhealthy, and your faith can die…and from that you will die. Without these very things, you cannot live and are cut off from the vine of Christ! And without these nutrients, the Father casts them out, cuts them off and throws them into the fire.
Without these very things, you can be cut caught up into the world that hates you, because as Jesus continues to teach, it hates him first! And this hatred is coming faster and faster! For example, google is banning faith-based advertising (it’s in their privacy policy), such as Concordia Publishing Houses’ VBS. California in a bill before their house might soon approve the banning of bibles and other resources that teach the importance of biblical marriage and that homosexuality is a sin. Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State was lambasted by a United States Senator for his views of the Christian faith and Christian morals.
Yet as the world continues to hate! Jesus continues to feed and nourish his church, because the Father has a such a great love for his church.
And let me tell you this, you were once part of the world that hated Christ. You were once separated from the vine. You were once a branch that was to be burned. You were once part of a wild-uncultivated vine. Yet, in Baptism, you were grafted into the vine of Christ. You were given life, forgiveness, grace, and mercy. You were cleansed! As you are cleansed branches, forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ, given grace In the Word spoken directly to you, the vinedresser continues to prune you.
And as you are connected to the vine, you bear fruit. Branches that are forgiven. You bear fruit such as St Paul writes in

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;

This is the natural result of being connected to the Vine, being fed and nourished with the gifts of Word and Sacrament. As you receive these very gifts, you are pruned so that you can bear even more fruit. Living branches that bear fruit only continue to do so as they are pruned…pruning back the parts that are sick and dying. Pruning with a sharp instrument can at times hurt. For example, disappointments and sufferings may come our way as God allows and uses to prune us and bring us to bear more fruit.
These disappointments and suffering can cause us to move away from earthly things to the spiritual, where Christ Jesus dwells. Over the past years Lisa Clark an author from Concordia Publishing House has written a trilogy called the Messengers. Simon, a teenager, lives with his father and a place where Christianity is illegal and, in the first book discovered by some pruning of his life, the gospel and the importance of faith in Christ. Through this Trilogy, and many disappointments, sufferings, griefs an sorrows, Simon is pruned and bears much fruit. Through this process, Simon discovers that the Message is worth dying for. And Simon bears fruit, he speaks the message to even those who don’t want to hear it. Throughout his struggles, Simon relies on Christ to continue to provide him with the nutrients to bear fruit and not to succumb to the temptations of the evil one. And when Simon sinned…forgiveness restored Him. The sin was cut from his life, and Simon produced even more fruit.
Simon is a fiction character, but yet as I read this trilogy, one can see yourself in him. There are countless stories even of you, as you sit in the pews this morning receiving forgiveness, receiving the nutrients that come to you in the body and blood of our Lord at this very table, of those who have suffered loss and disappointment and the Father as the vinedresser uses these to prune back the branches so you produce more fruit.
For the branches connected to the Vine of Christ, God the Father gives such meticulous care to you.
As you remain on the Vine of Christ, even as it may be painful, even as it may hurt a bit as you bear your cross and are pruned you may be surprised at the fruit you bear. As you receive the nutrients, as you are continually forgiven, you will also be surprised at the fruit you bear. Jesus continues to say to you:

7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Jesus tells us that if we abide in Him, and His Words abide in us - as forgiven fruitful branches we will receive whatever we wish! Remember these are not the selfish wishes, but the wishes that flow from fruitful forgiven branches. It also flows from being disciples of Jesus. And a disciples listens and repeats all that the master speaks. A disciple comes to and desires what his master desires. And when you get a group of disciples together in the Church that are now connected to the Vine of Christ receiving his nutrients, weekly in the Divine Service and daily in your personal Devotions, in Bible Studies, you will see a Church that goes forth and produces much fruit for the sake of the kingdom and not for selfish gain! Churches are made up of fruitful, forgiven branches.
Being forgiven, fruitful branches, forgiven and fruitful disciples, changes our wishes. Later on on the night that Jesus was betrayed, the same night he spoke these words in the Upper Room, Jesus prayed the words: “Thy will be done.” This is now the prayer of forgiven fruitful branches. For when we pray “Thy will be done,” the answer is always yes. For when our wishes matches the wishes of the vinedresser and the vine, the answer is yes. And this prayer is a prayer of faith, and this prayer can even lead to more pruning and MORE FRUIT! FRUIT of LIFE!
That Geranium if left uncared for and unpruned will soon be covered with dead branches. The beauty that God intends will be replaced with death and decay. Left to ourselves, our tragedy would be more than a dead flower. Left to ourselves, our tragedy is being cut off from the vine of Christ and burned. But you…you are connected to the Vine. You are forgiven fruitful branch. You are connected to the true and living vine that provides you with the nutrients to bear fruit. He nourishes you with His Word…word of Law and Gospel. His Word of pruning. His Word of Life, His Word of forgiveness. He nourishes you with his Sacraments, the very medicine of Immortality. He gives you forgiveness, life,and salvation through the vine…who was dead…and is is now alive forevermore! And because of that we will forever abide in the vineyard of the church, both now and forevermore!
In Jesus name…the true vine! Alleluia Christ is Risen!…Amen
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds and keep them focused in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.
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