Carolyn’s Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter – 5/6/12

Sermon Easter 5 year B

Grace, mercy, and peace from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We are connected with people in a lot of different ways. We are connected through email and through Facebook and through Linked In and Twitter.  We can send out messages to hundreds of people very quickly.  We can share pictures or videos with anyone who has an Internet connection.

As a matter of fact, this sermon will be posted on the church web page where it is available to anyone who wants to click on it and read it.

We are connected when we talk to friends and family on the phone.  Many of you know I enjoy doing that.  I am known for using ten times more minutes than the rest of my family members combined.

We are connected to people when we watch the news every night or listen to the radio.   We hear their stories and know what is going on in their lives.  The world has never been more interconnected.

Today’s gospel lesson is all about abiding.  That’s kind of an old fashioned word, I think.  We don’t talk much about abiding in our everyday conversations.  We talk about being connected.  Abiding and being connected are similar, but they are not the same thing.

I am connected to 347 friends on Facebook.  Some of them are people I actually know in real life.  I went to High School and College and Seminary with some of them and we were friends back in the day, so it is fun to see what they are doing with their lives now.

My guess is that about 10 percent of my connections are probably pastors that I only met once at a theological conference.  Another 10 percent are close family members and close friends.

The rest are people I will call acquaintances. People who were my friends when I lived or worked or went to school with them.  We might wish each other a happy birthday, but only because the computer reminds us, not because we would remember otherwise.  We could go a step further and send one of those electronic greeting cards with the tag line: “for when you care enough to click send.”

The Pastoral Call Cross for St. Mark's is COMPLETE!!!

I am not saying any of this is a bad thing.  The technology is only a tool that we can use for good, or not for good, as we choose.  Being connected can be a doorway to closer relationships.

Jesus tells us to abide in his love.  Abiding is more than being connected.  Abiding is about real life relationships.  It is a much deeper thing than just being connected.

Abiding literally means dwelling with, or living with.  In the Old Testament, when God came to dwell with the people of Israel, it meant God was pitching a tent in the middle of their camp. God’s tent was right in there with all of theirs.  They were close neighbors.

When I lived in the parsonage in Hallettsville, I had to walk through the child care center playground to get from my office to my kitchen door.  One day when I was going in for lunch, one of the three year olds pointed to the parsonage and asked if it was God’s house.  I said, no it was my house, and I pointed to the church and said that was God’s house.  She said, “you live next door to God.”

I love that.  But you don’t have to be in a parsonage to be near to God. God dwells with all of us, in our neighborhood.  God is the kind of neighbor you can drop in on and talk to anytime.  The door is always open.

The Jewish people have maintained the tradition of putting a symbol on the doors of their houses to remind them that God dwells with us.  This week try to remind yourself each time you walk through a doorway that God is abiding with you.

When Jesus says I am the vine and you are the branches, he isn’t saying he just wants you to follow him on Twitter or catch him on news when you can.  He isn’t saying you should wish him a happy birthday by sending cards or showing up at his house once a year and giving other people presents.  He isn’t asking to be part of your social network.

Jesus is saying that he wants to abide with you.  He wants to offer you a long term, life giving relationship.  He wants to stay with you forever.  He is saying that the only way to really have life is to be in close relationship with him.

When we are in close relationships, we nurture them.  We spend time together.  We talk frequently.  We do things together that we both enjoy.  When we abide in Christ, we spend time on the relationship.  We pray regularly.  We ask him before we make decisions about what we are going to do.  And we do those things with him by our side.

When we are in a close relationship with Jesus, it isn’t just a “me and Jesus, Jesus and me” thing though. It isn’t an exclusive relationship.  When we are in a relationship with Jesus, he is the vine and each of us is a branch of that same vine.

We must be in relationships with each other, too.  This is comforting in some ways because we know we can do so much more when we work together with other believers. We can support each other and help bear each others burdens.

Being in relationships with others can be challenging as well as comforting. Through Christ, we are in relationships with people we might not necessarily know or even choose to know otherwise.

In our first story from Acts, Philip meets someone he would not have met if he were not in relationship with Christ.  Philip was Greek, one of the first deacons chosen by the apostles to oversee the distribution to the widows and orphans.

He meets a foreigner, a man who was a convert to the Jewish faith, a well educated man in a position of power, but someone who did not meet that society’s or that religion’s definition of what a man should be.

Philip helped the Ethiopian official understand the scriptures.  He told him that Jesus Christ was the lamb of God who willingly gave his life for us.  Philip shared the story of how Jesus overcame sin and even death itself and rose from the dead.

The official believed in Jesus Christ and asked to be baptized immediately.  This un-named official is credited with bringing the message of Christianity to Ethiopia. When we abide in Christ we bear much fruit.

We cannot help but bear fruit when we abide in Christ.   It just happens. The fruits of love and joy just flow out of the relationship. His love helps us overcome all the things that keep us from being in real relationships with each other.  His love for us is so strong that it overcomes even the power of sin and death.

May we always abide in his love.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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