Easter 5, May 2 – Preparing the Disciples for Jesus’ Departure

Title:Easter 5, May 2 – Preparing the Disciples for Jesus’ Departure

We had 18 in the service and 6 online on a bright first Sunday in May. Larry and Jan Saylor from St. Peter’s, Oak Grove joined us. We celebrated Alex and Nancy’s 38th wedding anniversary. Alex V and family has moved into his home awaiting shipping out in Oct. to Okinawa.

Brad was back from a bout with pneumonia. The choirs sang some favorites – “Love divine, all loves excelling”, “In Christ there is no east or west, and “I come with joy to meet my Lord.” He provide “Prelude and fugue in A minor” as the offertory” from J. S. Back and Excerpt from “Rinaldo” by G. F. Handel as the postlude.

From Bishop Rob Wright, Diocese of Atlanta

“Breaking news: Jesus speaks life from the garden.” That would be the headline if the Gospel read like The New York Times or The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sometimes Rabbi, sometimes wonder-worker, Jesus of Nazareth convenes a small gathering of day laborers and poor people to share God’s plan for the human family. In rich and metaphorical language, Jesus, friend of the downtrodden, shared directions on how to have a fruitful life.

In spiraling language, Jesus calls God a “vine grower” and himself “the vine.” Jesus, who often speaks of unique intimacy with God, says that the Vinegrower’s role is to remove branches that don’t produce fruit and to prune branches that do produce fruit so that they can produce even more fruit!

According to Jesus, God delights in human beings bearing abundant fruit. Jesus’ soliloquy in the garden concluded with him making an impassioned plea to his listeners about “…abiding in him.” From sources close to Jesus, “abiding” means: to stick to, comply and uphold Jesus’ words and ways. It is the testimony of many interviewed after Jesus’ speech that his words themselves are a power source for abundant living. In a fairly standard speech for Jesus, there was one glaring and ominous statement made, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Easter 5 is a turning point in Eastertide. Jesus physically appears in Easter 2 and 3 making the Resurrection tangible. The shepherding part of his ministry is explored in Easter 4. From Easter 5-7, Jesus must prepare the disciples for his departure. He is going to leave them. Jesus prepares his disciples for continuing his ministry without his physical presence. Themes explored include the holy spirit, the Prayer of Jesus and God’s glory through His Son and the church.

Today’s readings reveal what it means to live in and through Jesus. In Acts 8, Philip explains to the Ethiopian eunuch the good news of Jesus. The author of 1 John reveals that true faith becomes visible through the obedience of active love. In today’s gospel, Jesus explains that, like branches connected to a vine, we abide with him and experience great fruitfulness.

In the first reading from Act, Philip has been presented as evangelist to the despised Samaritans. Now he has been sent to another outsider. Ethiopia in the first century referred to southern Egypt, now the Sudan. The eunuch may have been a Gentile proselyte or a “God-fearer,” who accepted much but not all of the Jewish law. As a eunuch, he would have been barred from Jewish worship, although Isaiah prophesied the inclusion of eunuchs.

The fourth servant song from Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13–53:12), which becomes the inspiration for the eunuch’s inquiries, was central for the early Church’s understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection as Christians searched the scriptures to find confirmation of what they had seen to be true.

The Epistle from 1 John repeats his earlier theme: God’s indwelling in the Christian is manifested in love for one another. In this reading, the theme is set in the context of the nature of God. Love is God’s most characteristic activity.

But the author’s assertion that “God is love” (v. 8) cannot be inverted to include the maxim that “love is God.” Much of what we experience as “love” is far from God’s love. God’s love is not an emotion but an event, made known to us in and through Christ’s incarnation and our redemption. Because this love is so intricately tied to Christ, the Christian’s mission of love is of necessity a mission of witness. We love one another as a manifestation of God’s life in us.

The Gospel of John calls Jesus, as Son, the representative of Israel, as “the true vine” (v. 1) who fulfills the calling of Israel. The Father is the vinegrower who “prunes” (v. 2, “trims clean”) the branches. Jesus reassures the disciples that they are already “pruned” ( v. 3, translated “cleansed” in the NRSV) by his word.

The summation of John’s chapter 15 can be expressed in two statements: (1) Abide in me—Experience that love (verses 1-8); and (2) Express that love (verses 9-17).

For John, Christian life is an active and committed life. There cannot be a living, unproductive branch. Those who do not remain, or abide, are taken away. Those who do abide through prayer bear fruit and show themselves as Jesus’ disciples.