今週の説教 未分類

A branch that doesn’t wither. John 15;1-8


 What does the parable of the vine and the branches that bear fruit indicate?  Does bearing fruit abundantly mean living as a fine Christian? Is it to bear witness? Is it to start a social enterprise? Is it to contribute to church activities? They showcase, of course, sonething like that. However, if this is the only meaning of this parable, it's worong. If so, as it is described in verse 6, the branches that bear no fruit will be thrown outside, gathered up and burned up. In other words, believers who are not useful to our society will be judged and thrown away.

 It's like a rule of efficiency in the realm of faith. But what if you were boasting that you were bearing fruit, what would that be? This would bes a mistake that the priests of Jesus' time and modern pastors are prone to fall into. including myself. This is because the fundamental question is whether or not that person is actually bearing fruit in the view of God.

 In the past,I had saved someone's lives. Twice I saved someone from drowning, and once I prevented someone from committing suicide. However, you are not to be required to save lives to be a Christian .  I don't think I've accumulated merits before God just because I had helped others. One Japanese pastor even commented on this parable of Jesus, ``I didn't primarily like this kind of parable.''Because, it certainly sounds like a devine selection. And, as this pastor feared, this part sounded like a proclamation that those who were of no use were doomed to be cast aside and burned.

 What do you think of ths. Is it right? Are you a branch that is bearing fruit, or a branch that should be thrown away and burned? I don't know the answer either. However, there is one thing I do know. It is important to ask to yourself the questions like this. If you think about it philosophically, it can also mean questioning the basis of your own existence. I think this is something we lack when we live our lives hanging loose. Therefore, Jesus must have first encouraged his disciples  to look down upon their own feet andd let them revealed in the light. Actually, the ``problematick concepts'' are hidden here: what humans have done good in the presence of God, and what they are currently doing good. This "problem concerning human works" was also the most important issue at the time of the Reformation. In the Lutheran Church's  Creed of Concord, John 15 is cited many times in contrasting human works and faith. For example, it is written as follows. “The conversion of man is the work of the Holy Spirit alone; without Him all that we plant, sow, and water is nothing. Christ denies the power of free will. ” We can see here, rather strong negative view of human behavior is expressed.

 However, contrary to negative opinions about human "good deeds," the Creed of Concord defines the meaning of bearing fruit as "being born again through faith in Christ and becoming able to perform the Law."  Only by being united to Christ can human actions become actions that are pleasing to God. In other words, the Reformers opposed the false teaching of approaching God through love and merit without depending on Christ. The fruit that pleases God is a result of faith, not a means of approaching God. Therefore, if we assume that abundant fruit can only come from faith in Christ, then if you think, ``I have no good works to be saved, I can't do anything, I can't help others.''  and if you think, " I'm not contributing to my family, I don't have love within me," then I think you're already accepted as a fine branch of Christ. The reason is that people who don't truly believe in God think that they are useful and that they are some kind of person. These are the branches that seem to be connected to the vine, but are actually not fruit-bearing.

This is the branch explained in verse 2 , that is attached to the trunk but does not bear fruit. I think it will be easier to understand if you refer to Hosea 10:1. It is a branch that can grow freely. I'm fine, but I'm selfish. It is a branch that has returned to its original bad wild grape nature. I also have had this type of experience. One day, I bought some pear seedlings. It had a small fruit on it when I bought it. So I was looking forward to planting this one, thinking it would definitely produce good fruits. However, the next year, stronger branches grew from the base, and the branche that was bearing small fruits withered away. The trunk the branch was grafted was of wild nature. Of course, this part was the rootstock, so, although it was vigorous, it would not produce any fruits. For sure.

 Perhaps the same phenomenon occurs with grapes. That's probably what Jesus meant. Having only good motivation means relying on our own strength. At first glance, they seem to be contributing to social service or church life. However, it's just a momentum. They are not bearing the fruit of God. It's just growing its own leaves. One just thinks in his/her own way that he/she is contributing to God. However, all humans have tendency or inclination like this.  To truly bear fruit is to please God. Being pleasing to God also means being pleasing to others. This is exactly what happened with Jesus' evangelicl activities. At the same time, being pleasing to God means being disliked and hated by those who do not please God.

 Then, what is this God pleasing fruit? Colossians 1:9-10 also says, "In all things please the Lord." This can be interpreted as the fruit of faith. The book of Hebrews also says that without faith it is impossible to please God. This faith is what bears fruit. This is what Jesus talked about many times: being "connected" to the trunk of the vine. It also means "to stay". This greek verb appears 118 times in the New Testament, more than half of which are in the Gospel of John and the Epistle of John.  The more power we think we have, the more we stray away from the dovine vine. On the contrary, if we think we have nothing to be proud of and are not confident that we are living according to God's will, that is the sign of being a good branch because we have such a “broken and fearful conscience.”

  Luther also quoted John 15 in the Augsburg Confession, saying, ``Without Christ, human nature and abilities would be too weak to perform good deeds, call on God, endure suffering, love one's neighbor, and obey commandments.'' He says that it is impossible to "diligently engage in one's duties, be obedient, and avoid evil desires." In that sense, John chapter 15 is really important. Christ, the vine that should be connected, is by no means an abstract entity; the church, which is the body of Christ, is exactly refered to. Because faith is not something that can be acquired alone. Inzai Internet church is just one medea medium, but like the epistles of Paul's time, it could be thought as the extended branches of the church on earth. Faith and the church also transcend time and space.

 Even if we ourselves feel  broken and lost, we still can receive salvation through the preaching and sacraments of the church, the body of Christ. There are many vineyards in Isawa, Yamanashi Prefecture Japan,  where my parents are from. When you look at the grapes that ripen on the branches in person, you can detect that they have a beautiful, sparkling color. Let us join the church like branches that bring forth fruit. Sometimes there are people you can not get along with. But you should not let that be an obstacle. Stay there. You may feel hurt. But it's the pain of growth. We need this because there is no salvation anywhere else. And let's be aware of that. We are the hands and feet of Christ,now,  nourishing other branches.

 It is up to you now to determine whether your family and friends are connected to the body of Christ. Let me share with you my own experience. I studied at an American Lutheran seminary for five years, then went to a seminary in Japan for two years, and after graduation, I served the church as a Lutheran pastor for 12 years. However, I was disappointed with Lutheran church's evangelistic policies, and left the church as an independent evangelist.  Living with a family of four members without a regular income was extremely difficult. Eventually, I became a full-time lecturer at NHK Gakuen Bible Course and a lecturer at a general university, and my life stabilized. However, during those 12 years of inddependent outreach,  of over a hundred Japanese Lutheran pastors, only seven pastors remembered Nakagawa as a former pastore. Professor Eto was the only teacher at the seminary who was  concerned about my daily life and even introduced me to a job at a local university. Unfortunately, I was unable to accept the job offer because it meant I would no longer be able to do pioneer missions, but I am still grateful about that to this day. What I felt at that time was that I was connected to the body of Christ.

I told you this because  I believe that your faith and your work are necessary for many who neet to abide in Christ. We can make phone calls, write letters, visit people, attend meetings, and help others when they are in trouble. For this type of Internet church, I think it would be a good thing to introduce it to those who cannot attend church services. This is because modern churches have become places where people who have financial problems, who are in poor health, or who have family care or work to to do, can not attend Sunday servises. This exhortation to "remain in the body of Christ" is spoken 118 times in the Bible. This is probably what is being said also to those who are reading this sermon today. And perhaps there is a deep meaning there.. According to the book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament, the tree of life planted on both sides of the river of life will bear fruit 12 times a year. If a river is separated from its source, God, the water will dry up. Trees also wither if they are separated from the river that supplies them with water. Is this not God's advice to stay connected and not withered away? And if we abide in the love of Christ, we will eventually bear fruit, no matter what, and give out  love of God so generously that we mightl be able to revive even the withered branches. There is no need for difficult reasoning. All we have to do is surrender all the care to our Savior, Jesus Christ!! Be connected! Be the branch that doesn't wither!   From Chiba Japan


-今週の説教, 未分類