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Sermon: Eucharist 3rd May 2015

Sunday 3rd May 2015
Sung Eucharist
Acts 8.26-40
John 15.1-8
Download Recording (MP3, 14.6M) Download

In nomine Patris…

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Perhaps the deepest question we can ever ask of ourselves is, ‘Who am I?’ That is to say, who am I beyond the very obvious givens of name, gender, age, or the things we construct around ourselves, our occupation, our supposed ‘social standing’ or our financial muscle. What more is there is to us being alive than simply breathing?

To ask ‘who am I?’ is to ask about your own identity at the very deepest level. It’s a question that at some times in our lives we think we have got sewn up, and yet at other times the answer can be incredibly elusive. All sorts of things can rock the safety and security of who we think we are: a change of job or role; moving house; changing school; hopes crushed, love unrequited.

When we explore deep identity we are exploring our rootedness and what anchors us in our lives. Like those of a plant, our roots go deep and tell us what feeds us, where our trust is placed, and our deepest hopes.

These are the questions for us today are in relation to the gospel reading: ‘who am I?’ and, ‘in what am I rooted and where do I place my deepest hope?’ Or put another way, ‘from where do I draw my life?’

The prophet Jeremiah sees it like this as he describes where he draws his life from:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
   whose trust is the Lord. 
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
   sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
   and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
   and it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17.7-8)

This is the rootedness of the saints, all God’s holy men and women, who root themselves in God. We see it in Blessed Mary, trusting in the Lord despite the storm of scandal and disgrace that blew up around her and when she stood at the foot of the cross watching her Son die in agony. To be Christian is to be rooted and grafted into the life of the True Vine, Jesus Christ.

Jesus describes himself as the True Vine. This is opposed to what? An untrue vine? An untrue vine cannot receive a graft, or if it does it cannot bear fruit. The vine was a long held motif in the story of the people of Israel. The Hebrew Bible is full of references to vines and vineyards, and Jesus would have been deeply mindful of that. He would know that a fruiting vine signifies a joyful, fruitful response to God; the unfruitful vine represents the rejection by the tenants of the vineyard of the life and sustenance that comes from God. So in the prophecy of Ezekiel the Useless Vine signifies the faithlessness of the people (Ezekiel 15).

Jesus came to graft us into the life of the True Vine, drawing life from the Father’s root stock. A graft on a vine means that the graft shares its life with the root stock. And a graft means a cut to the vine graft and the root stock, yet is a healing and fruiting wound.

This means we share our roots with those of Jesus, indeed, just like a vine we are grafted in to his life: Jesus wounded for us, yet wounds transfigured by resurrection. All this means that when we ask ‘who am I?’ Jesus answers, ‘you are one with me. Your life, your hope, all that you are draws from me, and I will draw you to the life of the Father.’

Being grafted into the life of the True Vine means that as we receive his life and identity we are transfigured, transformed into his likeness. This purges and challenges - our lives turn around - it cleanses. What is pruned is also cleansed, since the Greek word which is often translated ‘pruned’ can also mean ‘cleansed’.

Jesus speaks about the True Vine just after he washes his disciples’ feet: there’s a connection.


This is what the Ethiopian sought on the road to Gaza to bathe in the waters of life, of baptism. We can never scrub ourselves clean without the initiative and grace of God, since he is the Vinedresser, the one who tends the vine.

For you and me to dwell in an Untrue Vine is to be grafted into the power games, corruptions and manipulations of the world. It is to find our identity in the twisted expectations of other people that constrain and constrict us.

Being grafted in to the True Vine means that the false promises and pressures of other people have no bearing on us when we answer the question, ‘Who am I?’ because as St Paul says, ‘It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2.20). And that is why we pray in the Prayer of Humble Access, ‘That we may dwell in him and he in us’ a prayer that we might be grafted into the True Vine.

Being grafted into the True Vine means we draw life from God and bear fruit in the world. This is the heart of worship, of mission and of living: that we draw life from God and bear fruit in the world. We speak of the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord and Giver of Life’; the Spirit transforms the life we draw from God into worship, mission and daily living that bears fruit in the world.

It is of the fruit of the vine that Jesus choses to represent his very lifeblood for us. The fruit of Jesus the True Vine was crushed. Just as juice runs from the grape to become wine, so blood ran from his wounds and by the power of the Spirit flows into the Cup of Salvation, the wine of the Kingdom.

As those cleansed in the life of the Spirit through baptism may we ever be grafted into the True Vine of Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Lord, into the Father’s love:

Vine of heaven, thy blood supplies

This blest cup of sacrifice;

‘Tis thy wounds our healing give;

To thy cross we look and live:

Thou our life! O let us be

Rooted, grafted, built on thee.          

Joseph Conder 1789-1855 (New English Hymnal 276 v.2)

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia.