Sermon Year B Easter 5
May 3, 2015
Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington, VT
The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan
Our daughter and her family
were packing for a weekend trip,
when she overhears in the next room,
her little daughter Penelope, who just turned five,
saying to her brother Silas,
who is two years old,
“Silas, we don’t have much room in the suitcase.
We’ll have to leave your pants behind.”
I am the vine and you are the branches.
Or in the case of an older sibling to a younger one,
sometimes it is a bit more like—
I am the vine and you are a branch
and we don’t have room for your pants.
The truth is, we sometimes think that we are the vine
and everyone else is a mere branch, too.
It is easy to think the world spins around us.
Our gospel today reminds us of the truth:
none of us is the vine;
all of us are the branches.
This is what Jesus says to his disciples in the gospel this morning.
God is the vine grower.
I, Jesus, am the vine.
You are the branches.
We are in this together.
Vines and branches, vineyards,
bearing fruit, pruning.
These images were all instantly understandable
to the people
in the time and place,
the when and where,
that Jesus is talking and teaching.
The people knew about agriculture.
They knew about growing things.
They knew that pruning was necessary
in order to get the best fruit, the sweetest grapes,
the most abundant crops.
The message here is this:
If we don’t take care of the garden,
of the vineyard,
we are likely to perish.
God’s desire for us is that we will bear fruit.
This isn’t about having children.
This is about living a life of abundance.
God’s call is to come alive!
To be alive in all we do, in whom we are.
We are called to recognize and to celebrate how connected
we all are,
how connected and how dependent we are
upon one another,
upon all Creation.
Look around you this morning
at the artwork created by the children and young people
in our Church School classes.
If you want to know what it is to really be alive,
look at the artwork of children.
Art—by children AND adults—gives us a vision
that is often deeper than what words can express.
This year many of our Church School classes,
including our high school youth,
From reading books like Big Momma Makes the World
to intense curriculums
like TO SERVE AND GUARD THE EARTH,
the theme of Creation,
of our connectedness, was explored.
From the beginning and beyond,
we are connected.
We are connected to other human beings.
We have families and friends.
We know about human connectedness
and we know about our deep longing for that connection.
When our connectedness, our relationships,
with one another
it is painful,
deeply and darkly painful.
We are also connected to the earth—
this fragile earth, our island home.
We are connected
to all that God has made,
In the Episcopal Church—
this was actually developed by the wider Anglican Communion—
we have a framework—
known as the FIVE MARKS OF MISSION.
These Five Marks
are used to describe and to encourage
our common commitments
as the Anglican Church and as Episcopalians:
Here are the five:
# 1—To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
This isn’t just preaching, this is what our entire worship strives to do;
this is actually what we want our lives to do. Shout out to the world
the good news.
# 2—To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
Indeed! Three cheers for Church School, our Adult Forum, EFM, meditation groups, CIP, and the list goes on and on.
We believe that baptism, communion, and confirmation matter.
We care about our continuing spiritual formation.
# 3—To respond to human need by loving service.
How we do this as the Episcopal Church is very diverse.
Even in this congregation it is diverse.
We certainly are enormously committed to JUMP,
but many of you also serve at Salvation Army Dinners
(there’s one coming up—sign up!),
some of you will walk in the COTS walk today,
others travel to Haiti
or support Episcopal Relief and Development
through your generous giving,
of time and money.
Offering pastoral care, praying for someone who needs our prayers,
that, too, is loving service.
#4—To seek to transform unjust structures of society,
to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
This is what VIA is all about. Changing unjust systems.
Kids4Peace—-its about pursuing peace
and making a difference in the whole world.
Hatred and holding grudges and maintaining a hard heart
are all forms of violence.
Asking forgiveness and forgiving are ways we pursue peace.
and this one is really what inspired me
to talk about these 5 Marks of Mission
in this sermon today—
The fifth mark of mission is this:
# 5—To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation
and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
Yes, we recycle and compost because it’s the thing to do these days,
We are connected.
Connected to God.
Connected to others.
Connected to Creation.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
In the movie The Empire Strikes Back,
If you don’t know the Star Wars movies,
you need to know that Yoda is small.
I googled, “How tall is Yoda?” and got this answer:
Yoda is 66 centimeters tall—
so Yoda is about two feet tall.
Yoda says to Luke:
"Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm?
Hmm. And well you should not.
For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.
Life creates it, makes it grow.
Its energy surrounds us and binds us.
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
You must feel the Force around you;
between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere.”
My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.
This is what Jesus wants us to remember.
We are not the vine, we are the branches.
But we are connected,
deeply, deeply connected to the vine,
to a powerful ally.
We are connected.
We are loved.
We are invited to love.
We are invited to love.
We are invited to care.
In God’s suitcase,