May 02, 2021

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



First Lesson; Acts 8:26-40

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 67

Second Lesson; 1 John 3:18-24                             

Sermon Text; John 15:1-8


Let us pause for a moment on the words we just sang in the last verse of this text. 

Let your words in me take root. 

That I bear abundant fruit.

The words we are going to be looking at for today are words Jesus spoke on Maundy Thursday evening.  He spoke them after they had left the upper room in the city of Jerusalem.  Some people speculate Jesus spoke these words to His disciples on the way to The Garden of Gethsemane.  Or, maybe it was in The Garden of Gethsemane.  The time was of the essence, because the time of Jesus teaching His disciples was coming to a close.  In just a few short hours He would be arrested, before He would be put to death.  And so, Jesus shares an important 'precept'.  That simply is 'an instruction that has authority to it'. 

So, let's read the words of our Savior, Jesus, when He speaks these very familiar words,

“I am the Vine;

you are the branches.”

taken from John, chapter fifteen, looking at the first eight verses.


God's Word says:


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He is going to cut off.  And He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will bear more fruit.

“You are already clean, because of the Word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, and I am going to remain in you.  A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Likewise, you cannot bear fruit, unless you remain in me. 

“I am the Vine; you are the branches.  The one who remains in me and I in him is he one who bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers.  Such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this:  that you continue to bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



So again, Jesus is sharing a 'precept' with His disciples.  'It is an instruction that has authority.  It is an instruction that is true.'

For example, a precept we may have today, that we live by is, “You are innocent, until you are proven guilty.”
The precept Jesus lays out for us today is this.  If you remain in Jesus, He promises to remain in you.  That word 'remain' is very prominent in our text for today, because eight times in eight, short verses Jesus uses the word 'remain'.

He talks about it in the positive. 

“Remain in me,

and I am going to remain in you.”

But, He also talks about it in the negative. 

“If you don't remain in me,

you deserve to be cut off, and thrown away,

where you will wither, and you will be burned.”

So, today, let's look at this precept that Jesus is teaching the eleven disciples, in words that Jesus is teaching us today, as well.

It is hard to believe that in two short months we will be celebrating the Fourth of July weekend.  That is hard to believe.  The Fourth of July weekend is when we celebrate our independence.  We call it our Declaration of Independence.  We love to celebrate our independence, no matter if we are young, or no matter if we are mature.

Just think about this for a moment, starting with those who are mature.  Let's say the time comes when you need to sell your house, and you need to move.  What is the place that is probably first on your list?  It is a place called, Independent Living.  You like that, because you can do the things you want to do. 

The next place on the list would be Assisted Living, where you can do many things on your own, but you need assistance with some things. 

Maybe the place that would be last on our list would be Skilled Nursing, where everything needs to be done for us. 

We like our independence.

Or, think about youth.  Think about kids, for a moment.  We celebrate their acts, or their moments of independence.  For example, think of a child who brushes their teeth for the first time, all by themselves.  It is a proud moment of accomplishment, isn't it?

Or, think about the child who gets dressed for the very first time, all by themselves.  You have heard Pastor Bartels, and myself talk about this before.  We love visiting with families, when they come in the morning, (the kids on the school side, the parents and the kids on the ELC side).  It is not uncommon, it is probably a dad, (maybe a mom, but probably it is going to be a dad), who brings their two year old in the morning. And the two year old comes skipping in, and announces to Pastor Bartels, or myself, “I got dressed all by myself today!” 

And, you can tell!  The dad, who is behind the child, (even with a mask on), you can see his smile under that mask.  The dad is, like, “They dressed themselves, today.  I am not responsible for this, because their clothes don't match at all!”  

But, we celebrate that independence, that accomplishment of a child.

We celebrate when a child ties their shoes for the first time, or rides a two wheel bike, without their training wheels on.  We celebrate independence. 

But, you know what?  As we look at our text for today, our text refers nothing to independence.  Our text today talks about our being dependent, and our dependence on Christ, because Jesus, in our text for today says,

“...without me you can do nothing.”  

And so, that is why Jesus gives the precept, He gives the encouragement. 

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. 

Remain in me and I will remain in you.”

A person can bear no fruit apart from Jesus, just as a branch can bear no fruit apart from being connected to the tree, or to the vine.

Maybe you are like me, where you love seeing the blooms, and blossoms at this time of year, as they are really coming out in these last couple of weeks.  Over the course of the last few weeks, as I knew I was preaching on this text, I was thinking of different trees that are very beautiful this time of year, different vegetation.  One of them is the Forsythia.  I love Forsythia!  We have an example of the Forsythia on our altar this morning.  During the summer, you may have no idea where a Forsythia is located in your neighborhood, but in the spring you do, because it stands out.  It is yellow compared to everything else that is green.

You may see a Red Bud.  During the summer, you may have no idea where it is located, but at this time of year you do, because of the lavender that are the blossoms, and the blooms.

Or, the crab apple at this time of year is just spectacular.  You see those blossoms, and blooms, and it is awesome to see God's creation.

Or, the Magnolia, when you see it in all of its glory before those blossoms, and blooms fall out.

Over the course of these past few weeks, as I knew I was preaching on this sermon text, there is a tree I drive past every day that just kept coming to mind.  It is a Sand Cherry.  On this Sand Cherry you see examples of both of what Jesus is talking about.  You see half of the tree, with its wonderful blooms and blossoms, and you see half of the tree is just completely dead.

Jesus said,

“Remain in me, and I am going to remain in you.” 

Jesus said,

“If anyone does not remain in me,

 you deserve to be cut off,

or we will wither and die,

as we are thrown in to the fire.”

Just think about the words Jesus spoke in our text for today, when He spoke them.  He spoke them on Maundy Thursday evening.  After He left the upper room in the city of Jerusalem, before His arrest, Judas was not with them, anymore.  Of those eleven disciples, probably the disciple who should have understood this precept best, this instruction of Jesus, was Peter.  And yet, just a few short hours after Peter heard this instruction: 

“Remain in me,

and I am going to remain in you”,

Peter denied that he even knew who Jesus was.

Momentarily, temporarily, Peter was cut off, because he was publicly proclaiming, “I don't belong to Jesus.  Therefore, because of that Jesus doesn't belong to me”. 

There are times in our lives where there are big transitions that take place in our life.  Maybe it is our retirement.  Maybe it is the transition of graduating from college, or graduating from high school, or graduating from grade school.  I am going to focus on those last two, graduation from grade school, and high school.  During my ministry here at Holy Cross I have heard parents say to me, “We don't come to church on Sunday mornings, because the kids get religion five days a week in school, so why should we come?”

Recently, my response has been this.  “What is going to happen when the kids are not in school five days a week, at Holy Cross, or Lakeside?  Then what?”

I will tell you this.  In my twenty-three years here at Holy Cross, I can't give you one example of a family that started coming to worship, when the kids left grade school at Holy Cross, or when they left high school at Lakeside.  I can't give you one example of parents and families that say, “Now we are going to start coming to church, because the kids don't have religion five days a week anymore.”

I can't give you one example.

The words of Jesus ring true.  Again, as I show you the picture of this tree that I drive past every day.

Jesus promised,

“Remain in me

and I am going to remain in you.”

Or, if you do not remain in Jesus, we see the result of what happens.  A branch withers.  It gets cuts off.  It withers and dies.  It is thrown in to the fire. 

From the encouragement of Jesus, “Don't be a 'cut branch' person.  Don't sever yourself from the Tree, or the Vine, which is Christ.”

Now, another thing that our text for today says is this.  It talks about us being pruned by God, who is the gardener.  It talks about a person who is bearing fruit, God prunes, so that we bear even more fruit.  It was the author of the book of Hebrews who talks about that pruning process.  He says it this way.  It is never pleasant at the time. 

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Later on, however it produces fruit.

It produces a harvest of righteousness and peace

for those who have been trained by it.”

We hear this precept, or we hear these words of instruction from our Savior, Jesus, as He says,

“Remain in me

and I am going to remain in you.” 

We hear Jesus, our Savior, also share with us (just as He shared with the disciples), these words, as well.

“You are already clean,

because of The Word I have spoken to you.”

Thanks be to God you are already clean, we are already clean, because of The Word Jesus has spoken to us from God's Word. 

Another disciple, John, wrote it this way, when he wrote his first letter. 

“His blood, the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son,

cleanses us from all sin.”

You are clean, because of the blood of Christ. 

Just a few short hours after Jesus spoke the words of our text, He went to the cross.

“The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son,

cleanses us from all sin.”

John goes on to say,

“If we confess our sins,

God is faithful and just.”

God, the Gardener, is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

“You are already clean,

because of The Word I have spoken to you.”

Jesus, in our text for today, is the Master Teacher.  He takes the reality, and He puts it right next to the figure.  He is the reality.  He says, “I am”, and He gives us the figure. 

“I am the Vine.” 

He says, “You are the reality”.  He places it next to the figure. 

“You are the branches.”  

He puts them together, and says,

“I am the Vine

and you are the branches. 

Remain in me

and I am going to remain in you.”

To another group of believers Jesus was talking to, earlier in His ministry, He put it this way, (but He was really saying the same thing). 

“If you hold to my teachings,

you are really my disciples. 

Then, you will know the truth,

and the truth will set you free.”

We know what Jesus is saying in this precept.

“Remain in me

and I am going to remain in you.”  

We know God's Word says we then should bear fruit in the way we live our lives.  But what if we don't' know if we are bearing fruit, or not.  How do we know if we are bearing fruit for God, who is the Gardner?  Here are nine simple words that talk about the fruit of the spirit.  Ask yourself, “Are these present in my life?” 

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. 

We may still ask ourselves, “How do I know that I am bearing fruit, for God, who is the Gardner?” 

Sometimes, we have challenging days, and we may wonder, “God, am I bearing fruit for you?”

I close with this thought.  I am going to read it for you.  The fruit we bear in life, we live with our family, at work and school, in service done as precious and good fruit that pleases God.  It is the life of stewardship, and all the energy, and impulse that comes from the vine.  What in you, can you now appreciate as fruit that comes from Jesus?  It all brings glory to His Father, and is therefore precious to Him.  Your life, therefore, has infinite value, no matter how insignificant it may seem to the world.

In just three short weeks, thirteen young people are going to be standing up here at the front of Holy Cross on their Confirmation Day.  Our text for today is a wonderful confirmation text.  There is a  verse, or two in there that sometimes they choose as their confirmation verse to hang on to.  It is a wonderful one, because it reminds us of the precept, or the instruction of Jesus.  Jesus says,

“I am the vine. 

You are the branches. 

Remain in me,

and I am going to remain in you.”

So, the encouragement from Jesus, our Savior, today from His Word:

Remain in Christ for life.



Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, shall be now, and forevermore.