Our May 2 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The May 9 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. We will still be wearing masks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizer, but we will be open.
We are glad to share our worship with you. Click on “Contact Us” above to find out more about our faith family and what we believe.
Acts 8:26-40 | Psalm 22:24-30
1 John 4:7-21 | John 15:1-8
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower…I am the vine, you are the branches.” Jesus often uses illustrations from agriculture. The vine and the grapes are probably some of the best known symbols, second only to the sheep and the shepherd, from last Sunday.
I have sometimes seen illustrations, usually more of a tree than a vine, of the Whole Church depicted in this manner. The root of the plant is Christ, then springing out at the trunk are the Early Church, growing into the Coptic (most Americans don’t even know about the Coptic Church), Catholic and Orthodox Churches which form the first branches. As you move out along the branches, you pick up the smaller limbs which sprout from the larger branches: Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian; 14 different groups of Catholic (the Roman Catholic is the largest); 4 major branches of Orthodox, and on and on until you see denominations which most people have never heard of. There are 305 different groups of Lutherans in the world. The largest is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania with 6.5 million members. It recently beat the Swedish Lutheran Church by 250,000 members to become the largest group. We’re going to have to stop thinking of Lutherans as Northern Europeans. Our largest synod is East African. But my favorite group is the Lutheran Confessional Church of Finland. They have 26 members. But, they’re the only ones who have it right!
We, and all Christians, form part of the tree, branches of the Lord’s vine. There are currently 40 different Lutheran denominations in North America. The ELCA alone, which is the largest, has 10,000 congregations, 16,000 pastors and 4 million members, each a twig and leaf of that vine. Each one is a part of the whole, part of the giant network which forms Christ’s Church in its many forms; past, present and yet to come, the Body of Christ on earth.
We are all part of that network, or tree, or vine, whether we are aware of it or not.
We are part of God’s family! We are called children of God, claimed as such in our baptisms, and joined to Christ’s death and resurrection, joined through him into salvation. As the vine sustains and nourishes the branches, so Christ sustains and nourishes us, all of us.
As the branches are expected to bear bunches of grapes (like Philip in the Acts text – BTW, did you happen to notice that the Ethiopian was Jewish? He was reading Isaiah. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship? There have been Ethiopian Jews since the time of Solomon), so there are expectations placed on us. Having been already saved from sin and death by God’s grace, through our faith in Jesus Christ, we are to reach out to all with this good news and good deeds; maybe not quite in the way that it happened to Philip. But, as John implies in his lesson today, our faith is to be active in acts of love for the sake of the neighbor, it is kind of likely. Luther wrote that good works flow naturally from the faith of the believer, as the Holy Spirit gives you ability. Faith active in love, not just in word and speech, but in truth and action. That is the bearing of fruit which Jesus speaks of.
To bring it down to brass tacks: Outside of grace and prior to salvation, you cannot do good works, the sin (esp. Original Sin) gets in the way. Because of the condition of Original Sin, “you cannot not sin,” that is the official theology. It is in Article 2 of the Augsburg Confession. But, once in the faith, once saved, a person cannot not do good works and bear fruit to the glory of God. The condition reverses. It is a natural outpouring of your faith, like water flowing from a fountain, in thankfulness and in new obedience to God.
What are we to do? To treat others in love, (the Golden Rule), but do it for Christ’s sake. It is expected. As the vine bears grapes, as a tree bears fruit, so the disciple of Christ performs acts of love for God’s glory. And there is no better time, nor place, to give God such glory, than where we are. Who is my neighbor? Any person near you, whether they be an Ethiopian eunuch in a chariot or not. There are plenty of opportunities in this world for the bearing of much good fruit out of love of Christ, and love of neighbor. This is especially true in this time of pandemic. There are still people who need help, need assistance. The pandemic hit the economy as well as the hospitals. It can be anyone near by who needs to hear and experience the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember, “We love because he first loved us.” And that is to be in all circumstances, and always to God’s glory.