Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”John 15:5
Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Abide in him and we will bear much fruit. But apart from him we can do nothing. For our Vespers Services this year, I am using this idea as my theme, and exploring different aspects of what this means. What does it mean to abide in Jesus? How do we know when we are, in fact, abiding in him? What happens in our life when we abide in Jesus?
Lent is a time to reconnect to Jesus, to re-attach ourselves to the vine. This is a season when we devote a little extra time to making sure that our relationship with Jesus is healthy. We spend extra time here, in worship. We spend extra time in our daily prayers and devotions. We often give something up to do this. We fast. We engage in works of love. And we do all of this simply to make sure that we are abiding in Jesus. Because apart from him, we can do nothing.
To bear his fruit, we must abide in Jesus. But how do we know when we are doing this? Are there clues or signs or things that we can look for to find out how well we are abiding in Jesus? When you go to a doctor for a physical, for example, there are certain numbers that tell your doctor how you are doing physically. Your blood pressure, for example, your temperature, your heart rate, etc. These are indicators of your physical health.
So, are there indicators of your spiritual health? The answer is yes. We can look at the fruit that we bear when we abide in Jesus. And the good news is that we have a list of such fruit, in Galatians 5, the “fruit of the Spirit.” Remember these? There are nine of them. They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Nine indicators of our spiritual health, the fruit that we naturally bear when we abide in Jesus.
For these Vespers services, I will be looking at each of these different fruits of the Spirit. I’ll be reflecting on what Scripture tells us about what it means to bear this particular fruit. And of course, I’ll start tonight with the first of these listed, and the greatest of them all: love.
Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love is not just a command, although it is that. It is also the fruit that naturally grows within us when we abide in Jesus. When we abide in Jesus, our love grows: The love of God, the love of neighbor, and even the love of our self. All three of these are the fruit of abiding in Jesus. When we abide in Jesus, we abide in love. Or, as Paul reminds us in Romans 5:5, the love of Jesus is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Think of your heart as an empty vessel, and think of God’s love being poured into it until it is overflowing. The overflowing love spreads all around, to our family, our church, our community. This love flows upward, too, toward the God who fills us to overflowing with such love. Love is the first and most important measure of how connected we are to Jesus. When we abide in Jesus well, we know his love, fully and deeply. And we can’t help but share this love, lavishly and widely.
But here’s the thing about love: we can’t share what we don’t have. If we have doubts about God’s love for us, how can we share that love with others? This love is not shared from an empty vessel, but from a heart full of love.
So, this season of Lent is also a time when we remind ourselves of that love. We spend a little more time abiding in Jesus. We abide in him, spend time with him, until his love fills our hearts and souls. God is love, Scripture reminds us, and Jesus is the incarnation of that love.
God’s love in Jesus truly knows no bounds. Let us trust in that love, and receive it by abiding in Jesus, so that we can share it with all. To the glory of God. Amen.