Sunday, June 2, 2024
Becoming in Christ
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 & John 15:1-17
Rev. Michelle Olson

Share this message with a friend!

Play Video

Today we are focusing upon one of Jesus’ images depicting our relationship with God.  This image is a great beginning spot for our series as we seek to “become more like Christ” – it begins with our deep, intimate connection to Christ. Through this connection, God does the transforming work within us as we surrender ourselves to God through all times whether times of bearing fruit or times of pruning.  

Jesus was strategic in choosing a vine as the visual. A physical example for a spiritual truth. First of all, vines were common in the area and also the most prized plants. (images of vineyards in Israel)  so when Jesus mentions the vine, they’d think of vineyards like these.

In the Old Testament, Israel was depicted as the vine, special and highly looked upon as God’s chosen and loved people. So, the people who heard Jesus understood these parallels of Jesus calling himself the vine, God the gardener, and the believers the branches. With this perspective, let’s listen to  God’s word for you, for me, for all of us today.  

Read John 15:1-8 pg. in DEEP BLUE BIBLE 

ABIDING/remaining (NRSV, NIV, CEB)

We heard the word “remain.”  What does remain mean exactly?  This word was loved by John – he used it 10x in this passage.  The meaning is simply abiding/ staying /joined/ live/dwell. (I’ll use these words interchangeably)

What’s another way to think about the word abide/remain? We’ve heard it in this passage a lot.  

Turn with me to front of our bulletin, where we find the St. Patrick’s Prayer. As we pause over these prepositions may they widen our awareness of how in abiding we are embraced, held, followed, guided, accompanied, supervised and ensconced in Christ’s love that will not let us go.

As I read this prayer, I invite you to listen for the phrase that you are drawn to and circle it. I’ll read this twice:  

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all who love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.  – St. Patrick’s Prayer 

Do you hear it? Do you sense it? Christ’s surrounding you, grounding you in these truths of this intimate connection with him. From this place, we live and move and have our being. It is from this place of BEING with Christ that we can then move into living for Christ: the bearing fruit and being pruned. So hold onto this important piece as we move into our next sections.  


Bearing fruit is mentioned throughout this passage – in bearing fruit as you abide in him (4, 5),  bearing fruit for God’s glory (vs. 8.)  

Think of a grapevine – it is growing right before our eyes. Can you see it?  As closely as we watch it, of course we could not see the growth that is happening within and the nutrients that are flowing inside the stem to bring strength to the branches to grow, then blossom and then burst with tasty fruit. We cannot see all this, yet, we know that this is true. The branch is not doing anything except staying connected to the stem and roots. Also, we could not predict when that fruit was going to burst forth. We could only trust, wait, and celebrate when the fruit comes.   

Mother Teresa of Calcutta once wrote, 

“Let us all become a true and fruitful branch on the vine Jesus,

by accepting Him in our lives as it pleases Him to come: 

as the Truth to be told; 

as the Life to be lived; 

as the Light to be lighted; 

as the Love to be loved; 

as the Way to be walked; 

as the Joy to be given; 

as the Peace to be spread; 

as the Sacrifice to be offered, 

in our families and within our neighborhood.”  

Mother Theresa recognized that our vibrant connection with Jesus becomes a channel in which our families and neighborhood are able to see Christ.  

So, too, in our church, we can see times of bearing fruit.  People are connecting more deeply with God, each other and the world. Rich experiences are witnessed. We see the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. How is this happening? It is through the transference of God’s love flowing to us and then on to others. Which is the next important section following what we read:      

Vs. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Then later in vs. 17 “love each other.” This is critical to our faith journey. This love is what fuels our living life with God, and loving the world. For we need God’s love to fill us to overflowing in order to have his love continue to flow through us to our brothers and sisters in Christ and throughout the world.  


 We know about abiding, And it is easy to notice when we are bearing fruit, and often this becomes our focus. So I want to spend time on the other season of life on the vine – being pruned.   

John 15:1-2  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the Vine grower. 2 Every branch that bears fruit he prunes (our text said trimmed) so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Pruning was critical and we note that Jesus took time to talk about it. I’m glad he did because I know in looking at my own life there were times when I was painfully pruned and it was tempting to feel shame that I was not living up to the ALWAYS fruitful Christian life. Instead, I remembered Jesus’ words and rested in the truth that pruning was necessary for greater fruitfulness later. 

Do you hear a theme arising whether we are bearing fruit or being pruned?  Listen for it in the following story:

A few years ago at a conference, I heard Bunny Wilson share the story of the vineyard entitled “Pruned to Bloom.”  

Once upon a time there was a vineyard that contained many vines that bore the most delicious fruit. One day a young vine was planted in the next row from the oldest one in the vineyard.  She was so excited to be there and settled into the vineyard quickly. Summer came and she grew and bore fruit like the rest of the vines.  

One day the young vine said to the older vine, “How nice it must be that people come from MILES around to eat your sweet fruit. It’s the best in the land.”

The older vine smiled.  Encouraged, the little vine said, “Why, I want to be just like you when I grow up.  I will be faithful, committed, and loyal. What do I have to do? I want fruit as sweet as yours.”

The older vine remembered that once, long ago that he had asked the same question. So, he replied with the same answer that he heard, “Be willing.”  

Well, what does that mean? I don’t understand.” Frustrated, the younger vine turned to talk to the other vines.  

The other vines loved to talk and jabber about how good their fruit was. It was a happy time in the vineyard.  

Then one autumn day the gardener entered the vineyard through the old wooden gate at the end of the row. A hush fell over the vineyard, the young vine looked over at the older one. He did not seem troubled so the younger vine looked back at the gardener. She assumed that the gardener would begin to tell them how good they were and how sweet their fruit was. The gardener stopped at the first vine and knelt down. Then He pulled out a sharp object.  

The vine pulled back his branches and cried, “Why are you doing this to me?  Didn’t I bring honor to you?” Snip. The gardener cut the branch.

What’s happening?” asked the younger vine.

The older vine did not answer.

Oh, I get it, it’s a teaching lesson, so you want me to guess. Well tell me when I am right. Mmm… the gardener did not like that branch.”

“This proved he loved this branch.”

We thought he had sweet fruit but he didn’t.”

“NO.  His fruit was sweet.”

He did something wrong that we didn’t know about. And gardener is punishing him.

“The vine is not being punished, he is being pruned. The gardener wants him to have sweeter fruit.”

Why, that doesn’t make sense. He’s been cut down to the knob.  People will come and laugh at him because he looks funny and they will not know that he HAD sweet fruit.” 

“Only those people outside the garden who don’t understand will laugh.” 

“Only those outside? That branch didn’t understand. He cried, ‘Why are you doing this to me?”  

Old vine was quiet, “Unfortunately what you say is true. It’s one thing when those outside the vineyard don’t understand, and it’s another when those inside don’t understand. It causes a lot of chaos and confusion. The other vines near him will have to hear that vine murmur and complain.  

“ Well, you don’t have to worry about being pruned.  You have sweetest fruit.”

The older branch replied, “I want to be pruned.”

What?  It looks like it hurts and you’ll look funny.”

“Well, I’ll admit that it is quite uncomfortable, but it is worth it.  You see, I may look healthy to you, but there is disease growing on my hidden leaves. If I am not pruned, my quality of fruit will diminish.”

The younger branch thought a moment then replied, “I don’t understand. I’m afraid.”

“My young friend, When the gardener comes to prune you, remember that the gardener only prunes those who are his, which makes it an honor. Pruning happens because you are doing things right.  Remember that in time it will cause more fruit to grow.”

At this time, the gardener came to the old vine. The young vine watched as the older one lifted himself so that the gardener could cut more easily.  

Then the gardener turned to the young vine.

Shaking, trembling, and with tears running down her leaves, the young vine lifted her branches with all the strength within her and looked into the face of the gardener and said, 

Kind and gentle gardener, I am willing.”

(end of story – pause) 

“Kind and gentle gardener, I am willing.” Powerful words – words of surrender, relinquishment. I hear others words echoing of a similar surrender by a Man praying in a garden, “not my will but yours be done.”   

Are we willing to do the same? To offer our lives in surrender in each moment of our day. As we answer that question to ourselves, let’s keep in mind the One who is the Master Gardener. God is attentively and lovingly tending to us. Recall the Psalm passage “God made us, God knows us, and continues to surround us, we are God’s beloved.” Trust that God’s expert eye knows and directs His hand to best care for us.  

I encourage you to seek sustenance from the Vine, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let his love flow to fill you, his strength to uphold you. Here’s the comforting news Jesus says in vs. 16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Jesus is the one who opened his arms wide in love and took on our sins and the pain of this world and died on the cross. He is the one who is pouring his love into us as we abide in the vine. Look around – we are all on this vine growing together and can encourage each other to keep trusting in God and “be willing” for whatever God has in store for each one of us. God is here with us, tending us.

This brings us back to our general life on the vine, let’s be reassured that Jesus gives us a word of hope and trust through this imagery. Whatever may come, we are called simply to remain close – intimately close – joined with Jesus.  

What was the phrase that drew your attention from the prayer on our bulletin? I encourage you to repeat this phrase as a prayer to remind you of Christ’s deep connection to you in each moment in the week ahead (while working, driving, doing dishes, talking with friend or stranger, etc.), asking yourself “because this prayer is true… how does this moment change?” Then grounded as God’s beloved one, may you whisper, “I’m willing” and share God’s love with this world.