25th April 2021 – Easter 5
Readings – Acts 10:44-48, Psalm 98, 1 John 5:1-6, John 15:9-17
Last week I wrote about the seven ‘I am’ sayings of John and here we are with another one. This time it’s the final one “I am the true vine”. Another important teaching of Jesus “God is love” appears in the reading from the first letter of John.
Let’s worship God
Call to Worship
Jesus invites us to make our home in him. We are the branches, he is the vine and our heavenly Father is the vine-dresser. We are called to belong to him and we will find our true selves when we do.
Prayer of the day
God of love,
We thank you for the great love which comes from you
and for Jesus your gift of love to us.
Help us to love you,
to love each other and all your people,
so that the great commandment of Christ
may fill our hearts, our lives and our world on this day and always.
Prayer of Confession
God whose name and nature is love, we confess that we have not loved as you commanded.
We have claimed to love you, and yet have not loved our brother and sister.
We have lived in fear of what the world thinks instead of in your perfect love.
We have lived as those who do not know God forgetting your great sacrifice for our sins.
Yet this is love - not that we have loved you, but that you have loved us and sent your son as the source of healing for out sins,
Forgive us, we pray, for the wrong of our past.
Remake us anew for the day we are living.
Guide us and guard us in the journey ahead.
For you are love.
Words from the URC Prayer Handbook 2021 and contributed by Fay Rowland
Almighty and merciful Lord, grant us pardon and remission of all our sins, time for amendment of life and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
An appropriate hymn to read and sing - Love divine, all loves excelling [R&S 663]
The final ‘I Am’ metaphor would have reminded the original readers of John’s gospel that in the Hebrew Scriptures [The Old Testament] the vine was often used as a symbol for Israel. But the metaphor continues with “and my Father is the vinegrower” [v1] and “you are the branches” [v5]. Thus Jesus is like Israel through whom people receive life, one who mediates God’s love for them. It is still the gardener [God] who cares for and directs the growth of the vine. The gardener’s goal is for the branches of the vine to bear fruit.
What fruit would Jesus want those who draw life from him to produce? This becomes clear in v9 which follows on from today’s reading and forms part of that for next week: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” Love for one another is the fruit which shows the branches are living from the vine, in communion with Christ, cared for by the Gardener.
In our production-orientated society “bearing fruit,” even for churches, often takes on the meaning of growth, success, numbers. Not so for John. The branches are indistinguishable from one another with none greater or lesser. The only criterion in John’s gospel, as in the first letter of John, is whether love for one another is evident.
This thought takes us from the gospel to the letter which was written to encourage its readers to live in fellowship with God and his son Jesus Christ and to warn them against following false teaching that would destroy their fellowship. The essence of the letter is that Jesus Christ was a real human being and the writer emphasises that all who believe in Jesus and love God must also love one another. If we love others we are in God; if we don’t we are not. We are to love, not because we fear punishment if we don’t, but because God has loved us and our love is a response to God’s initiative.
Prayers of Intercession
Jesus, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Trusting in his word we bring our prayers before God.
We pray for the Church, for all the disciples of Jesus who seek to bear fruit in the world.
We pray for the world that God has created, and for all those who who have hard decisions to make for the common good.
We pray for our community; that we may see those places where we need to bring God’s love and peace.
We pray for all who suffer in mind or body, in illness, poverty or despair, asking God to show us how to bring loving care to them.
We pray for all those who have died; that they may find eternal peace, and for those who mourn them; that they may be comforted.
Loving God, your Son has promised that our prayers will be heard. We trust in that promise, and we ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We end with the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Let us turn back to our worldly tasks to bear fruit and glorify God.
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us now and always