Growing in the Sun(Son)shine:  A Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter.  Preached to All Saints, King City, Anglican
Diocese of Toronto, via Zoom, 2 May, 2022.  
Readings :  Acts 8.26-40; Psalm
22.24-30; 1 John 4.7-21; John 15.1-18. 


“Abide in me as I abide in
you.   Just as the branch cannot bear
fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide
in me.” (Jn 15.4)

Our young grandson was
visiting and was in the yard, looking at the back of our house.   “Why is your house covered in dead
sticks?”   It took us a moment to realize
that he was asking about the ivy that covers our house.   In the spring and summer, the front and
sides are covered in lush leaves, but for some years now the green growth no
longer returns to back wall, leaving only bare branches there.   We had hoped that the back growth might
return, but last year an arborist  told
us something that we should have realized.  
“Those trees in your backyard have grown so tall that they block the
sun.”   Denied the life-giving influence
of the sun, these branches have indeed died and will one day have to be pulled
down and disposed of.  

Our grandson’s question
helped me understand what Jesus meant in today’s gospel reading.    We all have the capacity to have rich and
flourishing lives, so what are the influences that sustain a healthy spiritual
life?  Just as the sun sustains the
growing part of our ivy, so the Son sustains us, hence Jesus’ words “Abide in

 While it’s not a commonly
used word today, “abide” has a particular spiritual resonance for 

“Live in me as I live in

John’s gospel makes it very
clear that Jesus was us to live our best life. 
“I came so that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John
10.10).  It’s significant, I think, that
Jesus says “life” rather than “eternal life”.  
In this statement, Jesus seems very much focused on our daily lives, as
he is with the vine imagery in today’s gospel. 
Abundant life, bearing fruit, whatever image you choose from the many rich
word pictures that Jesus offers us, all of them speak of the here and now.  

 The image of the vine and the
branches also helps us understand two other aspects of the Christian life.   One of them is fruitfulness

Every branch that bears fruit he
prunes to make it bear more fruit”.   We
understand bearing fruit as being personally virtuous in the Pauline sense of
the Christian virtues – kindness, forbearance, charity and so forth (
1 Cor 13; 1 Thess 1:3; 5:8; Gal 5:5-6; Col 1:4-5, 23;
Heb 10:39; 11:1
)– and
we also understand it as good works or service or ministry.  I’m impressed by how our life at All Saints
is fruitful in this sense – I think of Cross Links, our commitment to the
people of Pikangikum, to Faithworks, and other individual projects that some of
you pursue.

 The other
aspect of the Christian life that we see in the vine and branches imagery is
community in Christ.
   Jesus describes us
as branches, as part of the whole, meaning that we aren’t to think of our
spiritual lives as isolated potted plants.
Our flourishing is dependent on the flourishing of others, and our
health stems from the health of the Christian community.
   If we’re not part of a vine that is nourished
by the sun/Son, then we all wither and die.
A good example of this mutual flourishing for me is our Friday prayer
time, when some of us gather together online to pray and be prayed for by
fellow disciples.
    I depend on that
time to help keep my own spiritual life healthy, which is something that I
can’t do myself.

 Let’s finish by
thinking of how we can apply this idea of the flourishing spiritual life to our
own work as a missional parish, because the idea of a fruitful, abundant life
can be profitably teased out in conversations with those who might be new to or
curious in faith.
   Abundant, fruitful
life could be meaningful connection with and service to others, a healthy
freedom from the demands of the ego, a sense of awe and gratitude for the gifts
of our life, or resilience and meaning when our lives take adverse turns.
   Perhaps most importantly, and this can speak
to many people in today’s world, abundant life can mean that our lives have a
destiny, an arc which follows the loving purposes of God, so that we’re not
just bits of debris caught up in a meaningless current.
  I believe that this conversations can
influence and attract others if they see that we are a church that is in a
healthy relationship with Jesus and with one another.

 What happens if
we don’t live in Christ and how might we explain that to others?
  Jesus said, “Whoever does not abide in me is
thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into
the fire, and burned” (Jn 15.6).
can sound a lot like hellfire and damnation language, which can seem a lot like
extortion to those exploring faith (Join us or go to hell).
   I think we can take another, more helpful
tack, because we know empirically what lives look like when they aren’t
flourishing, whether we use the Christian tradition to speak about types of
suns (selfishness, despair, anger) which just produce bitter and rotten fruit,
or whether we use contemporary language about what happens when a life lacks
any significant meaning and drifts from crisis into ennui, nihilism, or other
destructive spiritual waters.
that don’t flourish wither and die, and end up, like the dead ivy on our house,
just a bunch of dead sticks.
withering is not some curse or threat
God’s, rather, it is a sorrow that grieves the heart of Christ for each life
that is not opened to his life-giving influence.

“Live in me, as I live in
you”.   Jesus wants us to grow and
flourish, and we can if we open our hearts and lives to him.   Those of you who have flourished through
these long months of Covid understand this.  
It’s why you’re here.  My hope is
that we as a parish have learned lessons from this time of digging into and
relying on our lives with Christ that will make us more missional and more
attractive when we come out of Covid, so that we can share this abundant life
with others.  Let’s pray.

Jesus, we thank you that
you are the Son of God and the sun of life that allows our spirits to thrive
and flourish and grow.  Free us from the
withering notion that our lives our ours to manage, without care or concern for
others.  Remind us that we are part of
your vine, part of the whole.   Give us
grace to flourish, as disciples and as a community, for the love that you bear
to King Township and to the whole world you created and gave to us.   Amen.