SUNDAY SERMON: God’s glorious creation

By Rev. Stephen Baldwin 

NT: John 15.1-8

Hasn’t this been the most glorious week? Thick, lush, green grass…fluffy white clouds covering a deep blue sky…red & purple & yellow flowers in bloom…deep orange sunrises matched in their beauty only by pink sunsets….God’s glorious creation…on full display. 

As everything around us grows, it’s the perfect time for the parable of the vine and branches.  

If a vine is cut off from the root, what happens to it?  It dies.  If a branch is cut off from the vine, what happens to it?  It dies.  If a piece of fruit sits on a branch without being picked, what happens to it?  It dies.  

This is a  parable about stewardship.  Taking care of the glorious gifts God gives us. 

It can be easy to forget that basic truth as we get wrapped up in our daily lives and plans.  Which reminds me of a story about a little girl. 

Her parents came home from the hospital with a new baby boy.  The girl kept asking her parents if she could spend time alone with her baby brother.  They were reluctant at first, so they told her she could soon…but not yet.  Her parents worried that, as sometimes happens, she was jealous of her new baby brother and, if left alone, may act out against him unknowingly.  But she was insistent.  She wanted alone-time with her new baby brother, and her parents noticed that she was very gentle with him.  So they finally gave her a chance.  She went to her brother’s room and closed the door.  Fortunately, the door remained cracked enough for the parents to peek in, as they could not resist watching.  She went to her brother’s crib, put her face down close to his, and said quietly, “Baby, what does God look like?  I am beginning to forget.”

What does God look like?  I am beginning to forget.  God is the vine, and we are the branches. Once, we were close to and rooted in the vine, but somewhere along the way, we grew apart.  A hectic world crowds our minds and hearts, and we begin to forget what the vine looks like.  We get so wrapped up in our part of the garden and in our own personal growth, that we elude the gardener.  We are conditioned to think, act, and plan only for our own personal selves.  We think that we are the vine.   

“I am the vine,” Jesus says, “and you are the branches.”  Abide in me as I abide in you.  This is a passage about what?  Stewardship.  

We’ve got to get one thing straight before we talk or think any further about stewardship.  You and I are branches. We depend on the vine for life.  Are you with me?  We can’t bear fruit if we stray from our root.  That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it!  Say it with me, “We can’t bear fruit…if we stray from our root.”  

The first step in being a good steward is that realization that we all have at some point in our lives, perhaps over time, that life isn’t about us.  We are branches on a vine.  And without taking that posture, we will not ever understand what it means to be a disciple, or what it means to be a steward.  

Let’s look at verse seven for a fuller treatment of that topic.  “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  Some people read that and are tempted to think, “Oh boy, if I believe in Jesus then I can have whatever I want!  I can pray for more money in my bank account and a whole big stockpile of patience and time to do everything I want to do…and I’ll have it because Jesus abides in me!”  Please, don’t give into that temptation.  

For the verse says, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, then what you ask for will be done.”  And if we abide in Christ and Christ in us, then the dynamic of our life shifts.  Instead of living for ourselves, we live for God.  No longer is our spiritual life a quest to get what we want from God, but it becomes a full life lived giving back to God.   We receive what we ask for because we learn to ask for holy things.  Do you see that distinction?   

It has been a beautiful week here. God’s creation is in full bloom. As I was mowing the grass this week—and I love mowing the grass, because you can see your progress and shape the beauty of the earth, if only for a day or so until it grows into something new all over again—I thought about one of my most memorable mowing experiences. 

Harrison was about 4. He was still interested in yard work, a trait which has left him now that he’s getting big enough to actually help. He wanted to mow the front yard with me. He liked the lines in the grass and wanted to make them. 

So we put on all his safety equipment, headphones, and boots, and began. We walked back and forth through the yard, each pass taking twice as long as usual as I tried to ensure his safety as well as get the job done. Every time we had to turn the mower’s direction it was like turning a cruise ship in a bathtub. But we marched forward and cut the grass piece by piece until it was something close to done. 

We got the leaf blower to clear off the clippings, and then he stood out front to survey his work. He looked at the yard, looked back at me, and proudly gave a big thumbs up, before heading back inside. 

As I looked at the lawn after he was inside, I was, frankly, appalled. The lines were crooked and uneven; the normal patterns had been obliterated. There were patches we’d missed. I considered recutting the whole thing. Then it hit me. It was perfect, just the way it was, because we’d done it together. I took a picture of the crooked lines, and I look at it whenever I forget how beautiful God’s creation is. 

“I am the vine; you are the branches.” Which points towards a deeper truth. This garden we call a world has all kinds of problems, but it’s perfect the way it is because we are making it together. 

The vine and the branch need each other in order to produce fruit. God must surely get frustrated with us sometimes for the way we go about being stewards of this beautiful creation, but God’s grace abides in us and us in him. 

Thanks be to God for our small part in taking care of the creation. Amen. 

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