The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
April 29, 2018
5 Easter, C
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
In the name of God who creates, redeems, and sustains us. Amen.
In college my priest used to say
that the lie or the myth of postmodernity
is that we can save ourselves.
As someone new to
an experience of Christianity
not focused on avoiding eternal flames
I was not very happy with this statement.
All-in-all, I felt,
that while we are broken
things were getting better, however slowly,
As humanity learned more about the world around it,
we were learning better ways to love,
better ways to care for one another,
better ways to be human.
We were working to save ourselves.
Ten years later,
I’m not there anymore.
I don’t think we’re as bad
as some theologians have understood us to be.
Nor am I particularly worried about
withering, being gathered up, and thrown into the fire.
The century of post-modernity
was one of the bloodiest in human history,
people in Flint still don’t have clean drinking water,
and our air and water may be getting a lot dirtier on the whole.
I am firmly convinced
that we cannot and will not save ourselves.
Jesus tells us the same thing today:
“Those who abide in me and I in them
bear much fruit,
because apart from me you can do nothing.”
Apart from Jesus,
we can do nothing.
Jesus wants us to abide in him,
to be still, to stay, to rest in him.
Jesus invites and admonishes us
to look to him as the vine
as we are ourselves branches.
Jesus tells us that we are to be outgrowths
of him, his message, and his life.
We are, as our Baptismal Covenant directs us,
to proclaim by word and example
the Good News of God in Christ.
“Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”
How then do we abide in Jesus the Resurrected Christ?
What does it mean for us to bear fruit?
One of the ways we can abide in Jesus,
is doing what we are right now:
There’s a joke in some Christian circles
that coming to Church doesn’t make you into a Christian
any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Garages are passive storage spaces.
Churches are active praise spaces.
The Preface of Easter,
which we’re not using this year,
says, “It is right and a good and joyful thing,
always and everywhere to give thanks to you
Father Almighty creator of heaven and earth
but chiefly are we bound to praise you for the glorious
resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is my belief that you cannot hear
God’s word proclaimed,
join the songs and prayers of the whole church offered,
and share Christ’s Body broken and Blood poured
and it have no effect.
We believe that all of those are God things,
not us things,
and we believe that God shows up
in water, oil, bread, and wine.
When we show up, we abide in Jesus
and we’re asking God to work on us --
even when we aren’t high in the Spirit
or feeling the peace of God which passes all understanding.
When we abide in Jesus,
Jesus will abide in us.
Other ways to abide in Jesus
are daily Bible reading and prayer.
Dakota and Cheyenne
had an extensive baptismal preparation curriculum
of daily prayer and bible reading
as well as reading through sections of the Prayer Book.
Lilly is going through it now.
Adrian was already baptized
and went through some of it anyway.
What are your daily practices of connecting with God?
Might we consider taking up a discipline
of praying Morning or Evening Prayer or Compline in our homes
but together as a congregation?
“Abide in me as I abide in you.
Just as the branch cannot
bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you unless you abide in me.”
I have no question or concern
that we bear fruit, beloved.
The work we do for our community
is huge given our size.
But we might need to think about some pruning.
I’m not much of a gardener,
that's not my spiritual gift,
but I know in order for plants to thrive — not just survive —
you have to do some culling.
You deadhead flowers.
You cut rose bushes
above a five-leaf cluster.
You have to clear out the dead
for the living to thrive.
What might we need to get rid of,
what spaces might we need to clear out
so that the fruits of our labors in Christ can flourish?
As we abide in Christ,
I’m sure we’ll find some discernment.
“Every branch that bears fruit
he prunes to make it bear more fruit…
Abide in me as I abide in you.
Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself
unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you unless you abide in me.” Amen.