5th Sunday of Easter, April 29th 2018
Acts 8:26-40, Psalm 22:25-31, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8
Alright, let’s talk about connections.
Let’s talk about who or what we are connected to and why that matters.
I feel like in popular post-modern lingo there is a lot of connection talk…
“Are you connected to Wi-Fi?”
“What’s your Wi-Fi password so I can connect to the internet?”
Wireless vs. Hardwired… Smart phones, Smart TVs…
Smart security devices connected throughout your whole home.
When we moved our church operations from the building across the street to this building so we could start the renovation process… there was a lot of talk and preparation about getting this building connected with phone services and the internet so we could continue to be connected to our members and society.
Being mindful about the connections we have is important in how we live life together.
I also confess there is an element to all this that is generational, I remember my parents saying things like…
“back in my day, we didn’t have TV, we listened to shows on the radio.” Or “Back in my day we only had three TV Channels.”
And of course I would roll my eyes.
And now with my own children, I find myself saying things similar things like, “Back in my day, I remember we had to get up and change with channel without a remote.”
“Back in my day, all of our phones were connected to the wall and I could only walk as far as the cord would allow me to, so my mom couldn’t hear my conversation.”
“Back in my day, I didn’t have the internet at my fingertips. I had to dial it up on my big ol’ computer.”
And of course, they roll their eyes.
I did a little research this week, and did you know…
- The first wireless connections like remote controls for the TV were actually created in the 70’s. I guess my parents just waited until the 80’s to get one.
- The first handheld “cellular” phone was created in 1984,
and was sold for $4000, and it was about the size of a suitcase.
- And who knows what “Wi-Fi” literally means? “Wireless Fidelity”
Wi-Fi was actually created in 1991 but it wasn’t released to the consumer (normal people like us) until 1997.
Hardwired or wireless…
Being “connected” is a part of our daily life.
On this 5th Sunday of Easter we get this flashback to before Jesus was crucified and before he rose from the dead…
to when he talked about the importance of being intimately connected to him.
When we get to this point in the season of Easter we often get flashbacks to Jesus’ teachings before he died and rose again.
And so the lectionary puts us in the shoes of the Apostles reflecting back on Jesus life and teaching and now after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus we see things with a new perspective.
“Oh, that’s what he means when he says I am the resurrection and the life.” “Oh, that is what he means when Jesus says he and his Father are one.”
“Oh, that is what Jesus means when he says he is the vine and we are the branches.”
Now one thing particular to John’s gospel is that the author of John has Jesus say a lot of “I Am” statements;
Like last Sunday…
I am – the Good Shepherd
And others like…
I am – the bread of life
I am – the light of the world
I am – the resurrection and the life
And today’s gospel…
I am – the true vine
Perhaps in today’s age of internet connections Jesus would say something like?
“I am your Wi-Fi password to connect to a whole new world”
Post Easter, post Jesus’ resurrection, these “I Am” statements bring us back to remember when Moses was on the mountain encountering the Divine in a burning bush and when Moses asked this particular God what this God’s name was.
The Divine answered, “I Am.”
With the first apostles we start to make the connection that Jesus, the Son of God is intimately connected to God of the burning bush.
And then Jesus makes this other connection that we as his disciples are intimately connected to him.
The “I AM” becomes “we”.
It appears Jesus believes connections are important.
They didn’t have internet or Wi-Fi back then so Jesus uses a common image of his day about a vine, and a vie-grower, and branches that bear fruit for the purpose of nourishment and the flourishing of life.
This image is rich with sacramental flavor…
The great “I Am” flowing, growing, abiding and connecting all things together.
To what and to who we are connected to matters.
So our particular Christian tradition and denomination (The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) doesn’t promote “Decision Theology”.
Decision Theology meaning that our decisions, behavior and prayers manipulate God’s love and care for us and the world.
That we decide through our decisions and commitments our eternal fate.
For ELCA Christians, this is not a part of our theological worldview.
We lean into God’s unconditional Grace as expressed and embodied in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who we claim to be the Christ. As we heard in our second reading from 1 John (4:10) “not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son.”
But! Our decisions do matter.
Our actions and choices do count and have an impact in this world.
Science has confirmed and continues to reveal that we are all connected on a biological and quantum level.
Now don’t misinterpret this as legalistic, or self-righteous, or diving into the murky waters of decision theology, but what we are connected to matters.
Similar to what we eat and the healthy decisions we make about the type of food we consume (we are what we eat).
Or the type of Entertainment we consume and how that shapes how we view the world and other human beings.
This effects our health, our relationships, who we are, and what we become.
We started the season of Easter with a room filled with flowers and lilies… and they looked and smelled wonderful.
But it only took a few days for them to start to wilt and die, and the water they were sitting in began to stink.
Why? Because these plants were cut off from their root, cut off from their source of life.
Jesus urges his followers that living as disciples, living as community of faith, don’t get cut yourself off from your source of live and purpose.
And so as we navigate the world we live in, the Christ, the great “I Am”, the Holy Spirit, the Triune God, says to us, “I am the vine, you are the branches… Abide in me as I abide in you.”
So when we process, explore and discern what it means to be an Easter Church, what is at the core of who we are and all that we do, is Jesus. Jesus the vine, we are the branches.
All of our activities…
Our synod work,
Our crop walking,
ELCA Global Missions,
even our website and social media brand…
Jesus is the source, at the center, and the reason for all of it.
And it is within these Christ centered connections that we experience a sacramental flow of life giving grace.
Now granted, Jesus never said “go to church”.
I looked for it, and it’s just not there.
BUT Jesus did say follow me, abide in me, I am the vine you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing, bear fruit.
And bearing fruit happens within the gift of community and the connections we nurture.
The Ethiopian eunuch needed Philip to help him understand the scriptures and Philip needed the Ethiopian eunuch to open up and whole new way God was acting and redeeming the world.
Our source of love, mercy and grace… flows from Christ.
We are intimately connected to the crucified and risen Christ in the waters of Baptism, and at this table of bread and wine, we are strengthen and connected to a flowing divine love. Again as it says in 1 John chapter 4, “we love because he first loved us” and we in turn love our brother and sister who we are connected to.
So pay attention to what you are connected to.
Continue to come to the font.
Come to the communion table.
Remember who you are intimately connected to.
And may your roots grow deep and may your branches reach wide.