1 “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, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are 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 done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:1-8

I’ve always considered my dad to be a good gardener. Growing up I remember working in the yard with him to plant all kinds of trees, shrubs and flowers. To this day, when we go back to visit, he always has a few new holes dug or marked out for where he plans to begin his next planting project. His favorite projects always involve oak trees, but he doesn’t get them from a nursery. He takes acorns from our property or from other places he’s traveled to and grows the acorns in black plastic containers he has saved from past visits to nurseries.

As I watched my dad work around the yard planting trees, I grew to appreciate the care it takes to keep a garden going. My dad was constantly spraying round up, watering plants, mulching, fertilizing and my personal favorite, fighting off the gophers. For some reason, the gophers in his corner of Northern California are particularly resilient, despite his efforts to eradicate them over the last few decades. You and I as believers are just like the trees scattered across my dad’s property because we both rely on someone else to keep us alive. The trees rely on my dad to take care of them, while you and I need to

Remain connected to Jesus.

Jesus said remain connected to him because he was talking with believers. Our gospel lesson from John 15, records some of Jesus’ final words with his disciples the night before he died on the cross. Jesus used the phrase “remain in the vine” or “remain in me” ten times in these few verses. Jesus made his point very clear to the disciples because this was the last time he would be with them before his death and resurrection. In other words, Jesus wasn’t going to be with them the same way he had been over the last few years, so they needed reassurance and direction for the road ahead. The disciples, like all believers, would now have to rely on Jesus’ words to remain connected to him.

Jesus said,

3 “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

Jesus assured his disciples that they were clean, meaning spiritually clean. He was talking about sin and grace, death and life. Without Jesus, the disciples were lost in their sins and as good as dead, but with Jesus, they were forgiven and alive. They had been buried under their sins and hidden from the light of life. Then, Jesus came to each of his disciples and called them to faith in him. He pulled them up out of the ground, cleaned them off to present them as clean, forgiven and without sin before his Father in heaven. It was this hope that Jesus was the Savior and giver of life, that he wanted the disciples and all who read this to put their trust in.

Jesus said,

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

All of us put our hope in Jesus because we know that apart from him there is no hope for eternal life. We must remain connected to him so that our faith remains strong. If we are not connected to him, then our faith begins to grow weak. Disconnected, we forget what Jesus has done to rescue us from our sins and provide us with a home in heaven. A part from Jesus, we also fail to produce the fruits of faith.

When we separate ourselves from Jesus, we not only run the risk of losing our place in heaven, but we also stop living as citizens of heaven. You know what it means to live as a citizen of Texas. We know this is the best state in the union, we are great place for businesses, we have the best barbeque, the best honkytonks, the best cattle and we have that kind southern hospitality. That’s just who we are as people who live in Texas. And, as people of faith, we are citizens of heaven, and that means we live different than those without faith. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul described how believers live,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”

When these qualities are evident in your life, they are the result of faith and being connected to Jesus. At the same time, when they are absent from your life, it reveals a faith that is growing a part from Jesus.

Growing a part from Jesus puts us at great risk. Jesus said,

6 “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers;”

I have a lot of fond memories trimming trees with my dad. It was a good workout clipping and cutting off old branches; we never used a chainsaw, just an old hand saw and loppers. When the branches got too high, I’d get to climb the tree or we’d pull the truck up under the tree and get the ladder out. Then we’d fill the bed of the truck with the cut branches and drive out in the field to add to the bond fire pile. After a few months of drying out, the pile would be ready to burn, which is all old branches are good for, like Jesus said,

“such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

Spotting a branch that is dead or fruitless is easy, but seeing our faults can be a challenge. It’s easy to know what branch needs to be cut off because it is the only branch that doesn’t have any leaves or fruit on it. It’s not so easy to spot the fruitlessness of our own lives. We don’t come with leaves popping out of our head or apples hanging from our arms, but if we look close enough, there are signs that our hearts are not connected to Jesus, weak in faith and low on fruits.

In 1 John 3:17, we read,

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

Do you have pity for others? Or from 1 Timothy 5:8,

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Is there someone in your own family who needs your help, but hasn’t received it? Or 1 Timothy 6:9,

“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

There is an interesting saying I’ve heard about how our credit card statement and checkbook are a reflection of our hearts. A statement full of line items going towards entertainment, toys or careless spending driving us into debt verses a statement of giving to the needy, helping our own families or supporting the spread of the gospel makes it clear the kind of hearts we have.

Jesus said,

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,”

We all ought to be cut off from the vine and put in the burn pile for our sins, if it weren’t for our Savior. By God’s grace we know our sins, but we also know our Savior. And Jesus said,

4 “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.”

By God’s grace, you and I have not been left to dry up. Instead, God gave us life and the gift of faith filled hearts eager to remain connected to the Word of God to be reminded of what our Savior has done for us. Jesus cut himself off from his Father’s love to become the dead branch that was thrown out and burned up. Jesus was cut off so that you could be, as Paul says in Romans 11,

grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap.”

Jesus connected you to himself the life-giving vine so that you would have eternal life.

Jesus said, 4

“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

We must rely on Jesus for life and when we are alive in him, we cannot help but bear fruit. John 15 began, by Jesus calling himself the vine and God the Father, the gardener. And God, the Great Gardener, gave us many examples of the fruit his people produce. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, God said,

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

God makes it so simple for us, he asks us to be cheerful givers. God doesn’t ask us for any specific amount nor does he ask us to give reluctantly or under compulsion. Instead, God wants his people of faith to give cheerfully.

This side of heaven we still wrestle with our sinful nature, but every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. As we remain connected to Jesus and his Word, temptations will persist and some sinful habits will fall away, while others take their place. It will be a constant battle for us to remain in the vine, much like my dad’s battle against the pesky gophers who eat the roots of the oak trees he plants. This side of heaven I do not believe my dad will ever be rid of the gophers just like there will always be more things that need pruning out of our lives, but thank God we do not rely on our fruits to be saved. Instead, we rely on the vine.

God is the Great Gardener who gave us the life-giving vine, Jesus. He rescued you from your sins and death by connecting you to Jesus. Connect others to the vine by sharing the good news of Jesus. Keep others in the vine by loving them, for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Until you are free from the evils in this world that threatened to steal your faith, remain connected to Jesus and remain connected to life. Amen.