United Church of Christ

2628 Fillmore Street, Philadelphia, PA  19137
"A Warm, Welcoming Church in the Heart of Bridesburg"

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Dear Friends -

"‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 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 am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 15:1-11

The passage above is from a section of Jesus’ farewell speech to his disciples. As we read, we see two words used over and over again: “abide” and “love”. “Abide” is a word that has fallen somewhat out of use – and perhaps that in itself is a commentary on our always-on-the-move society. “Abide” has several definitions, among them: “ to continue in one place, to remain stable in a given situation, to wait for, to bear patiently; to endure without yielding.” An older definition of “abide” is “to live”. An abode – a home – is the place where one abides; one abides in one’s abode. And I think that this latter definition – “to live in, to make one’s home in” comes closest to what Jesus intended when he told his disciples “Abide in me as I abide in you.” So Jesus has offered to make his home with us, and we are invited to make our home with him, to continue in his love, to remain stable in his love.

The word “abide” is connected to the idea of “bearing fruit”. If our connection with Jesus is strong, our lives – and our life together as a congregation - will show it. It’s not something we have to struggle for; if we are abiding in Jesus, these fruits will come naturally, as apples grow on an apple tree. These fruits may show themselves in changes in our character for the better: St Paul speaks of the fruits of the Holy Spirit as being “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of abiding in Jesus may also be evident in care for our neighbor, for as James wrote, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” (James 1:17) and, later, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27). These fruits of abiding in Jesus vary from believer to believer – but if we abide in Jesus, they will be evident. And if our connection with Jesus has grown distant and weak, that will become evident as well, to ourselves and to those around us.

And then there’s that word “love”. For Christians, love is a way of life. The love of which Jesus speaks is not a matter of sentiment, but of will: we are to consider the welfare of others as inseparable from our own welfare, and work for their good just as we would work for our own.

Abide – bear fruit - love. These were Jesus’ words for his disciples, and for us as well.

See you in church!

Pastor Dave

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