From the Pastor
Friends in Christ,
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the distinguishing characteristic of the true disciple, the trait that separates the real disciple from the false prophet, is the kind of fruit that a person bears. “You will know them by their fruits,“ Jesus says. Matthew 7: 20 He goes on to point out the obvious, but often forgotten: every good tree produces good fruit and every bad tree produces bad fruit. God desires that we Christians be fruitful, and that we produce good fruit, fruit worthy of the kingdom. But this only occurs when we are genuinely changed by our encounter with Jesus.
God’s desire for each and every one of us is transformation. His desire is that we become a new creation, putting aside the sin that clings to us by the power of God’s sanctifying grace, and growing into the image of Christ. As we grow in grace, we begin to give evidence in our lives of the spiritual fruitfulness that God wants each of us to experience. In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul describes some of the virtues we are display as Christians who bear fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23 The fruitfulness that God desires for us involves changed behavior arising from a changed character. As fruitful Christians we abstain from evil, and like John Wesley, we strive to do all the good we can to all the people we can whenever and wherever we can.
But Jesus also reminds us in John’s Gospel that we cannot do this by our own efforts. And we cannot do it on our own, removed from the Christian community and separated from the source of our fruitfulness, which is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the living water from which our spiritual lives flow and he is the nourishment that enables us to bear fruit worthy of our calling. To illustrate this point, he draws from an agricultural image, the powerful image of the vine and the branches. The branches can only exist or bear fruit if they are connected through the vine. Otherwise, they wither and die. John 15: 1-8 In the same way, we Christians must stay connected to Jesus, the True Vine, and we must stay connected to the community that draws its nurture from Jesus. Separated from Jesus we are like useless vines, good only to be pruned and thrown in the fire. Only by abiding in Jesus Christ can we bear fruit.
Abiding in Jesus means living in Jesus and making Jesus the center of our lives. It means practicing the spiritual disciplines that we Methodists call the means of grace. Through prayer, worship, searching the scriptures and engaging in deeds of mercy and compassion, we draw nurture from Jesus the True Vine. When we abide in Christ, we find the strength of community. We are called to be a part of something larger than ourselves — something larger, and at the same time something more joyous, more loving, more compassionate more caring. We are called to be a Christian community joined together by the love of Jesus Christ and our shared love for him. Only then can we bear fruit worthy of the kingdom.
Grace and peace,