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Worship Theme: The Risen Christ Gives His Church Power

Sermon Theme: A Crucial Connection

It’s only 120 miles long. That’s about the distance from here to Wisconsin Dells. It’s only 673 feet wide. That means if you could drop the Washington Monument in it sideways with 60 feet to spare on each side. It’s only 79 feet deep. That’s an even shorter distance than Travis Shaw travelled hitting the game winning walk-off RBI single in last night’s Milwaukee Brewers baseball game! But you could most definitely run from home plate to first base at American Family Field faster than you could swim from the surface of the water to the deepest depths of the Suez Canal.

It’s not that imposing of a waterway. The volume of that passageway is dwarfed when compared to the size of the Mediterranean Sea to its north or the Red Sea to its south. And those bodies themselves are dwarfed by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to which they connect.

The Suez Canal is not that big a waterway, but it plays a big role in the global economy. And if you were watching at the end of March, you saw just how big a role it plays. It was on March 23, that the container ship called the Ever Given caught a gust of wind that blew the bow (b-oww) of the ship into one side of the canal wall. That in turn caused the stern of the ship to swing across the canal and block traffic in both directions. And that’s where she sat for six days!

It’s estimated that $9.6B in cargo passes through the Suez Canal each day. That’s about 12 percent of daily global trade. There were 450 ships that were forced to wait in line for the Ever Given to be set free, and that’s not counting the ships that decided not to wait but instead to pass through the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. The impact of not having the Suez Canal for a week was significant!!

The Suez Canal is not that big compared to the size of the bodies of water it connects, but when you consider the use that it gets and its impact on worldwide trade, it’s easy to see that the Suez Canal is a crucial connection.

In his words recorded in our Gospel for today, Jesus tells us about an even more crucial connection. More important than billions of dollars in trade, more important than an entire global economy is the life and death – eternal life and death – connection that Jesus teaches us about and that Jesus is for us! There is nothing more eternally crucial than being connected to Jesus!

Jesus says: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. These words aren’t difficult to understand. Jesus uses that simple picture from nature to teach us how crucial is our connection to him. And on this Confirmation Day, when in our 10:30 service six young people will make their promises to God to stay connected to him, I can’t think of a better reminder. But it’s not just to six, Jesus bids all of us to keep that crucial connection to him and to never take it for granted!!

That branch that blew off of the tree in your front yard in the last big storm is dead. It’s been severed from its life source. The only thing that you can do with it now is drag it to the curb to be carried away. It cannot live without being connected to the life source!

Neither can you! Neither can you! You cannot live a real life - a life that is really life – without being attached to Jesus. We know that, but we don’t always live that!

We often seek to connect ourselves to other vines – expecting to see similar results. We think that if we can connect ourselves to the right people – people with power and prominence – then we will have a full life! We think if we can just connect ourselves to a solid stream of income, then all of life’s problems will melt away! We think life is about what we can make of ourselves and how many people want to be connected to us! But none of those connections deliver. None of those sources give life!

And it’s not just looking for connections in all the wrong places, we are all too content to have a casual connection to Jesus. Worship so easily becomes a when or how its convenient kind of endeavor. We find ourselves not so willing to sacrifice anything for God. We’re content to be loosely affiliated with God and don’t really think that living for him or according to his will is that important. We end up too often with an attitude that looks to offer God the least possible of our lives.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, and just a few verses later Jesus says, If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

 When we don’t cherish our connection to the Vine…When we don’t treat it like the crucial connection that it is…When we look for life and hope in all the wrong places, we deserve to be cut off from the Vine and thrown into the fire of hell!

But that’s not the ending that our God wants for us! He wants us to have life – real life – that’s why he sent Jesus to show us his love! God wants us to have that crucial connection to Jesus. And he knew that we could never have that on our own. That’s why God connected us to him through faith! That’s why Jesus was willing to live a perfect life for us! That’s why he was willing to lay that perfect life down to be the sacrifice that we needed! That’s why Jesus was willing to shed his blood, so that through his death we could have life! Jesus’ resurrection powerfully connects us to him. Connected to Jesus – his peace is our peace - his victory is our victory – his life is our life!!

We produce fruit, not because of who we are, but because of whose we are. We produce fruit because we are connected to the Vine. God has given us that crucial connection as a gift of his grace. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

Jesus speaks to us the words of God’s love. God’s Word is our crucial connection to Jesus. Through his Word of forgiveness, he has cleansed us and grafted us into the Vine. Through his Word, we know of the never-ending love of God. Through his Word, we are strengthened in our connection to the Vine and are made more fruitful in our lives.

Your smoke detectors at home are only as good as the battery that you’ll find in them. The flashlight in your nightstand in case the power goes out is only as good as the AA’s that turn on the light. If you plug the little end of the cord into your phone but forget to plug the big end into the wall, you’ll be disappointed in a few hours when you come back to find a phone that’s still dead.

My children aren’t great at plugging in their electronics. They often will play them until the juice runs out and then dispense them onto the coffee table to find something else to do. They then will come back a few hours later and pick them up again to try to start playing them. “Daddy, why is the iPad dead?” “Did you plug it in?” “Well, no!” “There’s your answer. That’s why it’s dead.” There are times that I am nice to them and plug them in overnight so that they can play in the morning. It was on one such morning that one of my girls came excitedly to me with great news. “Daddy, the iPad is alive!”

We’ve been connected to the power source in our lives, Christ Jesus the Vine. He’s done it all so that we can be connected. He’s washed us clean; he’s put faith in our hearts, he’s plugged us in…and now we are alive! We are alive to produce fruits that bring glory to God. We are alive to care for the needs of those around us. We are alive to serve Jesus in whatever station of life that God has put us in. We are alive to find joy no matter what the hardships we face. We are alive to see just how crucial a connection to Jesus is. We are alive to be ambassadors of God’s love to those who aren’t yet connected. We are alive to see that we have real life in Christ. We are alive to live in thanks and praise that Jesus has connected us to him and promised that nothing can sever that connection. We are alive to live a real and meaningful life here on earth. We are alive to live with him forever in glory.

My friends plug into the power source that God’s Word is. It’s a crucial connection - so use it. Through his Word - stay connected to Jesus. Remain in him and he will remain in you. Remain in him and he will never leave you. Use the power that he gives to remain in him and it will go well with you – and you will forever be a branch connected to the life-giving Vine. Stay connected to Jesus and you will be alive – eternally!! Amen!!

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Grace Lutheran Church
1209 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202