May 21, 2000
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

rule1.gif (2336 bytes)

Scripture Reading

1 John 4:12- 16

12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and

his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has

given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father

has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who

confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have

known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in


John 15:1-8

1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes

every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he

prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the

word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and

withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If

you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it

will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much

fruit and become my disciples. (NRSV)

rule1.gif (2336 bytes)

Sermon -  A Tangle of Vines and Branches

"Abide in me and I will abide in you" is Jesus' mandate to us. We hear

those words every time we take communion. They act to unite us as we prepare

to drink of the cup of blessing.

It is a call for faithfulness… it goes like this - you trust in me and make

me the center of your life and then you will find that I am dwelling in your

heart. Abide in me and then I will abide in you.

it is not the other way around. Jesus doesn't say, I am abiding in you -

whenever you get around to noticing this, you can abide in me.

Jesus is pretty clear that our relationship with God something that we must

desire. We can't ignore it 24/7 and expect it to be there the one hour of

desperation that we have in a month or a year. This relationship is

something we have to make time for - it must be important to us, we must

spend time seeking it, or we will not discover Jesus dwelling with us, in

our hearts.

It should be a close relationship Jesus tells us - as close as a vine and a

branch - the branches cannot exist without the vine… and the vine cannot

bear fruit without the branches… they are dependent on one another to

accomplish God's goal of caring for the creation. The vine needs us

branches, without our faithfulness the creation suffers. And all of us

branches need the vine, for it gives us life. It gives us the energy to

live fully. It gives us the support and nourishment that we need to

accomplish all of our goals.

Unfortunately, this symbiotic relationship starts to meld into confusion -

it is easy to get confused and begin to think that we are the vine, instead

of a branch we forget who we are - we forget which is which and soon, it

becomes this tangled mass of vines and branches, all indecipherable and

nothing flourishes, many things die.


Just last week, my husband and I were digging a hole to plant a tree in

front of our house. The fellow that delivered the tree from the nursery

commented on what unusually good soil we had. My husband said, yeah, we

got really good topsoil when we built this house. Oh, I groaned. No we

didn't, I made this dirt!

I was shocked when they both burst out laughing… "you made the dirt?" my

husband asked, barely able to contain himself.

I MADE THIS DIRT!!! I proclaimed.

They laughed harder…

Well, I did buy the bags of manure and other soil amendments, mix them

together and spread them out. It was hard work - I guess I just wanted

credit for it… I thought of it, I did the backbreaking labor and I sure

wasn't willing to give anyone else credit for it…not even God, 19 years


We all do this. We begin to think of ourselves as the vine, and not the

branches. We are willing to take credit for anything or we criticize

everything, or we try to have control of everything.

We are led by our pride, our control needs, our drive for perfection or

recognition, our need for acceptance, our fears and frustrations, our

personal pain, our low self esteem… and more… you have to make you own list.

When we get caught in the tangle of vines and branches, we have a hard time

recognizing that we are there - but to those on the outside looking in at our

lives - it is all perfectly clear. They see our control needs, our drive for

perfection or recognition … They might not be able to name it as such, but

they can recognize the difference between a branch and a vine, especially a

branch that wants to be a vine.

Because a branch that abides in Jesus reflects God's love and glory. A "vine

wanna be" reflects the glory of the individual… A branch takes the role of

the servant, always working toward God's goals. A wanna-be vine goes the

opposite way, working toward their own goals or more security, recognition,

control. You get the picture.

Today we will gather for our Spring meeting of this Church. One of the

things we will do is to vote on all of the nominees for our committees. It

is a wonderfully long list of willing volunteers.

As we approach one another in the work of this church Jesus reminds us that

we are to remember that we are the branches and that if abide in our Lord

Jesus Christ we will find Christ in our hearts. We are to take the role of a

servant and love one another. We are to recognize Christ in one another's

eyes. We are to remember to pray with and for each other. We are to turn to

God in prayer for our selves, remembering that prayer is both speaking and

listening. We are to let God guide us and direct us in all the work we do.

We have made a decision to be united as the body of Christ - lets not be a

confused tangle of vines and branches, for nothing can flourish in that

environment. Let us all, each one of us, be the branches on the vine that

gives us life. May the fruit of our lives and our work at this church reflect

the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…and God will dwell in our

hearts forever. Amen.

Return to Homepage