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Sermon and Liturgy For The Fifth Sunday of Easter - Year B
Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 22:23-31, and John 15:1-8
"Not Good if Detached"


READING:  Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 22:23-31, and John 15:1-8
SERMON :  "Not Good If Detached"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-ea05se 368324

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   Sources, if any, are as indicated in the text.
   
 
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Deuteronomy 8:6-11)
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  The Lord our God has brought you into a good land:
P  A land with streams and pools of water, 
   with springs flowing in the valleys and hills;
   a land with wheat and barley, grains and fruit of every kind; 
   a land where bread is not scarce and we lack nothing.
L  When you have eaten and are satisfied, 
   praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.  
   Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God.  
   Do not say to yourself, "my power and the strength of my hands 
   have produced this wealth for me."
P  We will remember the Lord our God, 
   for it is he who gives us the ability to produce wealth, 
   and so confirms the covenant he swore to our ancestors.
L  Observe the commands of the Lord your God,
   walking in his ways and revering him 
   and it will go well with you in the land.


* INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy" (verse 1)                           - VU 315


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
We come before you Lord needing the love you alone can provide, and knowing
that within you and by you and through you all that we need can be found. 
Pour out upon us today your grace and mercy - make your Spirit move
strongly within us - that in our hearts their may be an abundance of your
holy love and in our minds the fullness of your sacred word.  Abide in us
and with us and help us to abide in you as we proclaim your glory and seek
your strength - both now, and indeed forevermore.  Amen.


* HYMN: "Crown Him With Many Crowns"                               - VU 211


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


ST. ANDREW'S THIS WEEK


CHILDREN'S TIME:   "Tending The Orchard"
Object:   Budding Branch, Dead Branch                                      
Theme:    Getting Into the Life
Source:   Self and concepts from "Children's Sermons Plus" Vol 24 - no 2.

Good morning - I have here today two branches.  If you were one of them,
which would you want to be?

This branch is healthy and looks alive - this branch is dead.  The dead
branch has been dead for quite a while - there is nothing we can do to save
it - but this branches still lives.  What does it need if to stay alive??? 
(Sun and rain)

What killed this branch is the fact that it was broken off the rest of the
bush last summer.  While the rest of the bush grew and grew, this branch
just kind of withered - even though there was a lot of rain and a lot of
sun.  That will happen to this branch too unless it is reattached to the
bush - by a process called grafting.  Then it will produce beautiful leaves
and give shade to us.

Jesus compares us to branches on a vine.  He calls himself the vine - and
us the branches.  

When we are part of the vine - we are truly alive and we produce good fruit
- we do good things - but when we become separated from Jesus - we begin to
wither and can't really do anything good at all - and if we go on too long
like this - we will die.  But if we turn back to Jesus in time - and become
reattached - and allow his love to flow through us as sap flows the vine
and its branches - then we will live and produce the beautiful fruit of
good works and praise unto God's name.


THE LORD'S PRAYER


* HYMN: "For The Fruit of All Creation"                            - VU 227


A READING FROM DEUTERONOMY 28:1-14
   (NIV)  If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his
   commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above
   all the nations on earth. {2} All these blessings will come upon you
   and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: {3} You will be
   blessed in the city and blessed in the country. {4} The fruit of your
   womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your
   livestock--the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. {5}
   Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. {6} You will be
   blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. {7} The LORD will
   grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before
   you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in
   seven. {8} The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on
   everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in
   the land he is giving you. {9} The LORD will establish you as his holy
   people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the
   LORD your God and walk in his ways. {10} Then all the peoples on earth
   will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will
   fear you. {11} The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity--in the
   fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your
   ground--in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you. {12} The
   LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain
   on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You
   will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. {13} The LORD will
   make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands
   of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow
   them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. {14} Do not
   turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or
   to the left, following other gods and serving them.

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 22:23-31 (Voices United 746, Pt. 3&4) & Refrain


ANTHEM 


A READING FROM JOHN 15:1-8
   (NIV) "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. {2} He cuts
   off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that
   does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. {3}
   You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. {4}
   Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by
   itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless
   you remain in me. {5} "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man
   remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you
   can do nothing. {6} If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a
   branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up,
   thrown into the fire and burned. {7} If you remain in me and my words
   remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. {8}
   This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing
   yourselves to be my disciples.

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "Blest Be The Tie That Binds"                             - VU 602


SERMON: "Not Good If Detached" 

   Let us Pray - Creator and maker of us all - bless the words of my
   lips and the meditations of our hearts - grow thou in us and show us
   your ways and inspire us to live by your truth.  Amen

Jesus said

   I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener; he cuts off every
   branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear
   fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful....  I am the
   vine, you are the branches.  If a person remains in me and I in him,
   he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

I do not think that there is any better image of the Christian life and of
what is supposed be like than this.

I want to dwell on this image today and on the promise that is made with
it, the promise that says: "If a person remains in me and I in him, he will
bear much fruit".

I find this image of what it means to be a Christian tremendously
reassuring.

There is so much grace in these words for people who are tired out from all
their work or discouraged by the fact that they do not feel they are good
enough for God or that they have not done enough for Him.

The image of Jesus as the vine and ourselves as branches reminds that
salvation and wholeness, and indeed all good things that we experience and
produce, come not because of what we do, but because of what we are and
where we are.

Even obedience to the Law of God, that obedience which,
   as we were told in the Book of Deuteronomy leads to abundant prosperity
   and blessings upon the land,
even this necessary obedience is transformed by the image of the vine and
the branches from being something that we strive to do by our own power and
might and effort to something that God produces in us when we are attached
to him as a branch is attached to a vine.

An avid gardener told me one time about a cucumber plot he had planted:

   He had been very careful to select the best seeds, and plant each
   one at its proper depth.  He fertilized and watered the plants, he
   worked the soil faithfully each week to prevent weeds from
   encroaching and he sprayed to prevent bugs and blights from
   afflicting the young plants.

   The season was a good one - just the right amount of rain and
   sunshine, and on the vines appeared broad green leaves and in due
   course the blooms.  It looked magnificent.

   One day he noticed that here and there certain leaves were dying,
   certain blooms fading.  Most of the leaves remained a healthy glossy
   green, but scattered among them were those turning brown.  Why, he
   wondered, would some die in the midst of all the living?  So he
   investigated.

   Stepping carefully among the tangled mass of vines he traced the
   ones on which the leaves and blooms were dying, until he found that
   they were all connected to a single stem.  There, just above the
   ground, cut-worms had severed the stalk. The entire vine above that
   point was dying because it was no longer attached to the roots and
   the stem that had produced it.

It is a common tale - but it is an instructive one.

It reminds us that we die spiritually,
   that we are incapable of producing fruit,
when we are not attached to the vine,
   or when we are not connected to the roots which nourish us.

It also reminds us that when we are attached 
that the fruit that we produce - indeed the prosperity of the land itself, 
comes to us naturally, as a gift of God.

The gardener does the work 
   and the vine he plants carries the sap and all its nutrition to us,
and we, because we are in the right place, 
   prosper and produce for the world the fruit that it needs.

All of us want to do good things, we want to produce good fruit, but many
of us - in trying to do good things, as I said last week, end up feeling
burned out, exhausted and even despairing.

This particularly happens to many people in the so-called caring
professions - to doctors, social workers, nurses, and the like.

They do much good - but many get frustrated, angry, and tired,
their ability to help others decreases,
and some end up giving up entirely on their professions.

Yet there are others - others who do as much if not more,
   others who are full of hope and of life,
       full of care and love for their neighbours and their world,
who never fall prey to this plague, but rather go and on, touching and
healing those around them by what they do.

I believe it is because they are connected to the source of hope,
   to the source of life, 
   to the source of care and love,
for their neighbours and their world.

The cup of water to those who thirst,
   the word of assurance to those who are in doubt,
       the comforting hug to those who are in pain,
          the gift to those who do not know if they are loved,
              and the deed of kindness to the one who is in need,
all these things are things that God wants us to do,
they are part of what Jesus calls the fruit of being in him,

They are also the evidence and the badge of the Christian life, proof that
we are who we say we are.

But my friends the badge is not the thing that save us,
   it is not the thing that brings us into a relationship with God,
but rather it is only the thing that shows that we are saved 
   and are already in a close relationship with God.

Let me remind you of what fruit is.

Fruit is the excess, the overflow of the life that a plant has taken into
itself.  The more life that a plant takes into itself the more life it
produces.

When there is an abundance of sunshine to fuel photosynthesis,
    and when there is adequate water and nutrient in the soil to
       be passed up the trunk and into the branches
those branches thrive, and grow, and produce, and grow again.

The plant and its branches don't have to force themselves to grow,
      they do not have to make a resolution to bring forth sweeter and more
   succulent fruit,
nor do they need to remind themselves to be more abundant in their
production.

They simply need to be in the right place,
   the place that the gardener has prepared for it,
       the place where the conditions for growth and fruit bearing are to
be found.

For us the right place to be is in the vine that has been planted
by God and which is tended by God - the vine which we call Christ.

My friends, each one of us here today, as people who profess that Jesus is
our Lord and believe in our hearts that he rose from the dead, are part of
the vine of Christ.

We are able to produce tremendous quantities of fruit, conditions are
perfect for our growth - because God himself tends us and ensures that
those conditions are perfect.

All we need do to be fruitful is remain a part of the vine,
   and perform the simple tasks that every branch performs
       as a means of maintaining a fruitful life in the vine.
 
Basically there are only two task that we need to do,
just as there are only two tasks that a branch in a vine does.

First - the branch, through its twigs and leaves, receives energy from the
sun to fuel its growth.  The leaves, by the miraculous process of
photosynthesis, convert light into plant energy which helps to drive the
system that produces fruit as its end result.

Secondly - the branch, through its connections to the stem of the plant
receives moisture and nutrients from the soil, it receives the life giving
sap that makes its grow.

I realize that this description lacks a little in botanical terms, but in
theological terms it reminds us of all that we need to do to be pleasing to
God.

FIRST - the branch receives energy from the sun through its leaves.
  
So we too receive energy when we unfold ourselves before God and accept
from him the light he offers to us in his Word,  both the written word of
scripture, and the living word of Jesus Christ.

I am sure you have all noticed how plants track the sun,
how they focus on it, 
how they lean towards its light 
and turn towards where ever it is.

Owners of houseplants know this very well.

If they do not want a plant with a permanent lean to it, they must
periodically turn the pot it is in so that it begins to lean in the
opposite direction, and hopefully, if they catch it at the right time in
its leaning, it remains in a nice upright position.

They also know that if you take a plant and you lock in a cupboard for even
one day its leaves pale and droop and it begins to die.

In the same way we need to be exposed to the word of God,
   we need daily contact with the light it sheds,
   we need to hold his teachings in our minds and in our hearts 
so that we might draw from them the strength and energy we need.

When we do that - when we lean out to receive God's word, when we absorb
his words like the plant absorbs the sunlight, then a miracle occurs in us
- God's word gives us part of what we need for life and the production of
life.

Psalm One says it very well:

   Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or
   stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but whose
   delight is in the law of the Lord, and on whose law he meditates day
   and night.

   He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its
   fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

Secondly - the branch is connected to the stem or trunk, receiving from it
the nutrients and moisture that it needs.

The branch is - for want of a better word, in communion with the vine and
through that communion it is able to produce fruit.
 
The same truth applies to us.

All the light in the world, all the reading of God's word and meditation
upon the gospel of Jesus, will not avail us much unless we are connected to
him.

The connection, my friends, is established by God;
and it is maintained by us through the way of faith and prayer,
   the way of trust and worship,
   the way of willingness to receive from God by making ourselves
available to God as part of Christ's living body, the church.

These things both keep us in the vine 
and feed us - that we might produce fruit.

A former minister at Metropolitan United Church in London tells the story
of how, after he had been there for several years, he met a member of his
church one day in the parking lot.

   The parking lot is rather small and during the week many people
   attempt to park there to avoid large fees at the downtown lots.  His
   spot was clearly marked by a sign "for the Minister". One day as he
   drove into the lot to park his car a car pulled into his spot just
   before him and a woman got out.  He rolled down his window and asked
   her to move her car.  She said to him,  "Who are you?  I can park
   here if I want, I am a member here and the minister said we could
   use it when he is not around."  And with that she walked off.

   Thinking about what had happened afterwards, the minister came to
   the conclusion that on the membership roll of the church there
   needed to be a new classification in addition to that of resident
   and non-resident members.  He suggested it should be called PPO -
   Parking Privileges Only.

When Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and you are branches", he also said -
"no branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine".

We remain in the vine and produce fruit when we desire a relationship with
God that goes beyond being content with having parking privileges only.

We remain part of the vine 
- when we are willing to obey the commandments that Jesus has given us,
- when we are willing to love each other and to love God,
- when we are willing to forgive each other and trust God to forgive us,
- when we are willing to be seen with the rest of the branches in the vine.

We remain a part of the vine and produce fruit when we commune with
God 
- when we are willing to pray to him and listen for his answers,
- when we are willing to worship him even if it takes us away from our
Sunday dinner and the latest baseball game for a few minutes,
- when we are willing to trust in him even when we think that he is not
doing enough.

Communion with God and God's church is the connection to the vine which
feeds us; and communion with God involves our heart and our will:
   the heart that loves all things that God has made,
       and the will gives Him praise for them;
   the heart that aches for all the sin of the world,
       and the will that tells the good news of Christ's love,
   the heart that believes that God alone makes the difference
       and the will that asks God to make a difference to oneself.

Indeed, being connected to the vine is a matter of the heart and the will,
   the heart that trusts God, and the will that leads one to act as if
every single one of God's promises can be counted on.

When we have the heart and the will - God does the rest through us.

I want to end where I began, by saying that there is a lot of grace in the
words of Jesus:

   I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remain in me and I in
   him, he will bear much fruit.

Just go outside after the service and look around at the trees and plants
that are beginning their cycle of growth once again.

God is a good gardener, indeed he is a great gardener and what he plants
and tends is tremendously fertile, tremendously productive.

God has planted the Vine called Christ in our midst,
and when we are willing, he grafts us into that vine,
and provides to us all things needful for growth.

All we have to do to remain a part of the vine and produce fruit pleasing
to Him and good for us and our world is open ourselves up to the light of
his word and commune with him through his Risen Son.

God gives to those who seek to be with him, and he gives only what is good
and which helps us to be what he created us to be - a blessing to the
world.

Praise be to God, our Gardener and our King. Amen.


LET US PRAY (PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE)
L  Creator of all that lives, maker of all that breathes, source of all
   that grows, nothing can long exist apart from you.  Hear our prayer.
P  Lord Jesus, you are the vine and we are branches, created to be joined
   to you.  Help us to live in you.
L  Secure us in the faith of all the saints, apostles, and martyrs.  Make
   us love what you command and desire what you promise, that amid all the
   changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found.
P  Lord Jesus, you are the vine and we are branches, created to bear
   fruit.  Help us to abide in you.
   .............. (silent prayer) ..............
L  Lord - hear our prayer for the world you have made and for those who
   dwell upon it.  We ask your blessing upon the land and those work it
   this day.
P  Lord, hear our prayer.
L  We ask your blessing upon those who labour to nourish your people and
   those who work to feed the nations.  Make them fruitful.
P  Lord hear our prayer.
L  Bless, O Lord, those who care for the air, the land, and the sea, and
   for all that is in them or upon them.  Bless too those who bring your
   love to their neighbours, your compassion to the aliens and strangers
   in their midst.
P  Lord, hear our prayer.
L  Bless, O God, those who seek to heal the wounds of the spirit and the
   afflictions of the body.  Bless them and those to whom they minister.
P  Lord, hear our prayer.
L  Bless, O God, all those whom we hold before you at this time. Fill them
   and us with your life giving love in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
   Amen.


* MINUTE FOR MISSION 


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

   Lord, we give for many reasons - chief among them being our
   gratitude and our desire to obey and serve you as best we can.  We
   pray, O God, that you would bless all that we offer to you at this
   time - and that you would make it fruitful and result in ever
   greater praise being given unto your name.  Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "We Have This Ministry"                         - VU 510


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.


* BENEDICTION
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may God's Most Holy Word be a lamp unto your feet; 
- may God most Holy Love guide you in Acts of Compassion, 
- and may God's Own Strength uphold you and make you fruitful 
in the glorious work of his kingdom - both now - and evermore.  Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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