Friday, May 12, 2006

Making a Home in Christ

Sermon Texts
1 John 4 7-21
John 15:1-8

As we celebrate the confirmation and baptism of these five members of our faith family today, I can think of no better scriptures than what was assigned by the lectionary today. John’s gospel and epistle passages boil down our 8 weeks of confirmation lessons into two themes that illustrate the whole Christian walk. We must abide in Christ and we will bear much fruit. And, We are commissioned to love one another because God is Love.
First, I’m glad that we are presenting you with Message Bibles today, because I think Eugene Peterson’s translation of the word “abide” really nails what that word means for us. Christ says, make your home in me and I will make my home in you. Christ illustrates this by talking about the relationship of a vine to its branches.
What do you envision when Christ says, “Make your home in me?” or “Live in me?” I have had the privilege of making that parsonage right across the street my home. Over this past year, I’ve gotten to the point where I can walk down the hall at the dead of night without turning the lights on. I know how many paces it is down the hall to get to the refrigerator. Just last week, I stumbled into the kitchen at 6:30 in the morning, got out the coffeemaker and some coffee, and prepared a cup of coffee before I think I even really woke up. When we make our home, we become familiar with it inside out.
Christ invites us to make a home in him. If you have ever received a letter from me, you may have noticed that I try to take this to heart when I sign the letter “In Christ.” By signing my letter “In Christ,” I’m letting the person who I’m writing to know that I have found Christ to be a wonderful home—a spacious and warm home.
You confirmands may remember not too long ago making forts out of blankets and chairs and whatever else you could find to make a little dwelling place all your own. Did you do this? Perhaps if not, you had a tree house that your own little refuge. Do you remember that feeling you got when you hunkered down in that fort? That feeling of contentment and security? I remember it as a kind of fullness in the belly. A sense of wonder and peace—for whatever reason, when I think of the word “abiding” I think of those little forts I used to make in my room or of the treehouse that a friend and I made out in the field by my house.
Jesus asks us to “Live in him,” to “make a home in him as he makes in us.” However, the result of this close relationship with Jesus—what Peterson describes as “intimate and organic”—the result of this intimate and organic relationship is not just a feeling of security and contentment, it is fruit! Jesus tells us that there is something produced by this relationship—and the more grapes that are produced, the more the Master Gardener will prune us in order to produce even more fruit.
So what is it that the grapes represent? Truth be told, there is probably a lot of applications for this passage—and you may find that a close connection with the vine gives you more power and enthusiasm to express your spiritual gifts, which could be one way to think about fruit. But today I want to focus on something a little more basic that is a fruit of the vine. It is something that the letter of John calls to our attention today. It is simply: Love.
John asks us in the first epistle to Love our brothers and sisters because that love is itself an expression of God. That love is itself an embodiment of our Lord. That love is itself a fruit of the vine.
This part of the letter is a perfect companion to the gospel text—the theme is the same. In verse 15, John says Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God's Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. 16We know it so well, we've embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.
So, making a home in Christ—abiding in Christ—means letting God live in us. It means taking up permanent residence in a life of love.
And so, those of you who are taking the vows of baptism and of confirmation today, I ask you—are your bags packed? Are you ready to make a new residence in a life of love? The letter tells us that “everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. Are you ready for the deepest relationship you will ever have? Today is not the first day you have been involved in that residence—in your lives as preparatory members of the church, you have been learning about what is involved in that relationship—you have been gathered into Jesus’ arms as he gathers the children into his lap, as he gathers his sheep into a fold.
Now though, you have the opportunity to live in this “home” with a fuller appreciation for your surroundings. You know more about “the rules of the house,” you know more about the “foundation” of the house, you have heard some of the stories of this old, wonderful dwelling place that we call Jesus. Now you have the opportunity to confirm that decision that your parents guided you toward. It is as if your parents are handing you the keys to the home, letting you know that it is now your decision to make this faith your home as we have all hoped you would. That is confirmation!
One other thing that John tells us about this dwelling place though. If we make our home in Christ by bearing the love of Christ, we must understand that there is literally no room in the home for fear. The last part of the letter says it best, “This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day--our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. 18There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life--fear of death, fear of judgment--is one not yet fully formed in love.”
If we put our trust and our lives in Christ, if we make our home in Christ—then fear has to move out! We don’t have the room for that ugly old furniture! Fear of death? We can toss it out! Christ lives here! Fear of judgement? Put it on the bonfire! A fearful life is one not yet fully formed in love—so if we want to live in the continually close, organic, fruit bearing connection with our Maker, Redeemer, and Transformer, we’ve got to get rid of those things!
And a failure to love our brothers and sisters? That is usually a product of fear as well. That is a withering vine not connected to the source! The letter tells us that if we can’t love our brothers and sisters, whom we can see—how can we expect to love God, whom we cannot see? This is the tough part, because Christ opens our eyes to see that our brothers and sisters aren’t just the people we feel comfortable with—they’re the poor and the outcasts. Jesus shows us in his ministry that they are sometimes those people we can’t ever imagine God loving in the first place. So if you find yourself “hating” these people, chances are that you might have sleepwalked right out the front door of your home in Christ and are laying face down in the ditch! Run back into your home as fast as you can—take a shower in the outpouring Holy Spirit and get the mud out of your eyes, because God says we don’t love God unless we can love those around us! Do you hear what I’m saying?
If you hear me, then walk up here right now, because I’ve got some questions for you! This isn’t just a ribbon to pin on your shirt, confirmation is a means of grace, and the Church is wanting you to receive it!........................


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