(This is 1/2 of the message at Lutheran Church of the Master, Lakewood, CO on November 23, 2014. The first half was given by Pr Brigette Weier, https://alutheransayswhat.wordpress.com/)
Jesus talks here about vines and branches and fruit. He’s talking about a vineyard. What is the thing that defines success for a vineyard? Grapes! Isn’t that what a vineyard is actually for?
You can have a vineyard with pretty leaves, straight rows, beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, but unless it’s producing grapes–the fruit–it isn’t really a vineyard.
So when Jesus talks about us being branches on the vine in a vineyard, he’s talking about us bearing fruit. Everything is about the fruit. If we are the branches, our purpose is to bear fruit. It’s about the fruit. If the branches aren’t bearing fruit, they’re removed. Those that are producing fruit are pruned in order to bear more fruit. Because it’s not about the branches, it’s about the fruit.
What would you call a vineyard where the vines had a whole bunch of branches, but there were no grapes? Not a very good vineyard. Because the goal isn’t seeing how many branches the vine grows, but how much fruit can be produced by whatever branches there are on the vine.
The point here is that Jesus is making sure we, who are he branches, know our purpose as part of God’s vineyard. Our measure of success is the amount of fruit, not the number of branches. That is the biggest failure of the church: the counting of branches–church members, instead of counting the fruit–the purpose of the church.
We are connected to Jesus who is he vine in order for us branches to produce fruit. So, what is the fruit? What is the fruit of God’s vineyard, God’s reign? What is God wanting for the world? . . .
Love, peace, mercy, patience, compassion, generosity . . . The very attributes of God, the nature of God, the character of God. That’s the fruit we produce and scatter in the world. That’s why we are branches connected to the vine. That’s why we are connected to one another in Christ. So that the world can receive this fruit. So that all people will experience unconditional love, forgiveness, mercy, and generosity. That is the fruit we bear. That is what we scatter in the world. That is why we are connected to the life-giving vine that is Jesus Christ.