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Pastor Mary Gilthvedt
April 28, 2024
Easter 5B

Abiding in the Vine
John 15:1-8

My father grew up in Bradenton, Florida. After he graduated from high school, his family moved to Tampa. There grandpa, a carpenter, built a triplex. After grandpa died, dad inherited the property. Since we lived out of state, dad needed an overseer for the property. The overseers were not always dependable, so our family made a trip to Tampa every year to check on the property.

Checking on the property did not just mean looking it over. It included fixing, painting, and scrubbing. My parents and we six kids would work tirelessly day and night for a week. The weather was usually hot, and the work seemed unending. But by the end of our week in Tampa, the property would look like new.

As a reward for our work, each evening dad would take us to the beach or a sight-seeing attraction. No matter where we went, though, it seemed like Florida was one big city.

That was my impression when I was younger. However, when I became older, I found that Florida really is not one big city. It actually has a lot of country and farmland.

Sebring, Florida, is farm country. The farming there is called “muck farming.” That is because the land is proto-peat. Peat is usually found in wetlands and is made up of decaying plant and animal material, so it is all organic and shimmies like Jello. Sebring has some huge peat fields that look like something from a science fiction movie. The fields are filled with tree stumps about four or five feet tall, cut off and painted white.

Those weird tree stumps are part of a citrus grove. The farmers grow lemon trees because they are the hardiest citrus fruit. When the lemon trees get to a certain height, they chop them off, paint them white, let them sit for a while and then graft whatever fruit they want onto the lemon stumps. That means grapefruit, orange, and tangerine branches are grafted on to the lemon stumps. The result is a hearty, abundant, delicious citrus crop of whatever was grafted on to the lemon stump. I think that is amazing! If the citrus branches had not been grafted on to the lemon stumps, there would not have been the abundance of fruit or the hearty quality of fruit.

The person who is baptized into Christ, is like a branch grafted on to Jesus, the vine. Those who are grafted onto the vine of Jesus produce abundant fruit. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Galatia named the abundant fruit we produce: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we are grafted into the vine of Jesus, when we abide in him, we love more, have more joy, more peace, more patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And, the quality of our fruit, the quality of our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is genuine, hearty, colorful and full of flavor.

The comedian and pianist Victor Borge once surprised his friends by purchasing a chicken farm. One of his friends asked him suspiciously, “Do you know anything about breeding chickens?” Borge answered, “No, but the chickens do.” Yes. The chickens do. It comes naturally to them.

So, also, it comes naturally for branches on a vine to bear fruit. That is what the person grafted into Christ does without prodding. We bear fruit, naturally. When we abide in Christ, the fruit of Christ comes naturally. We love.

There is another interesting thing about grafting. You cannot graft an apple tree onto the lemon stumps. It must be citrus. The person who is grafted to the Lord, is stuck loving. There is no other way to be or act. Otherwise, we become like dead branches, ready to be pruned.

Every day our branches reach out to others with the fruit of Christ’s Spirit: the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As we abide in the vine Jesus, our branches will be full of delicious fruit that will sustain us and all our relationships until we see Jesus face to face.