The Holy Spirit of God’s love calls us into a unity of life and love, which Jesus describes as a fruitful vine. We belong to God. We belong to each other. Today let us ask the Lord to open our eyes to the possibilities and responsibilities this gives us.
Confession and Kyrie.
We are branches on the vine that is Christ so that we can produce fruit for God’s kingdom.
Lord, you are the true vine. Lord, have mercy.
Lord, you invite us to make our home in you. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, you call us to produce good fruit. Lord, have mercy.
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
Gloria in excelsis
Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us, you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; through Jesus Christ the same our risen Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
First Reading Acts 9:26-31: Barnabas introduces Saul to the apostles, preparing the way for the mission of the future apostle, Paul.
Psalm 22: 25-27, 29-31. You, Lord, are my praise in the great assembly.
These verses speak of God’s work being always bound up with his purposes for all creation.
Second (Epistle) Reading 1 John 3:18-24:We know that God lives in us when the Holy Spirit enables us to believe in Jesus and love one another as he told us to.
Gospel John 15:1-8:Just as the branch has to be attached to the vine if it is to bear fruit, so we have to be united to Christ if we are to bear the fruits of love.
When Covid-19 struck our world, we had to learn a new way to be human. Things that we used to think of as normal behaviour, even polite behaviour, became unacceptable – no shaking hands, embracing or kissing outside our own immediate circle. Social distancing became necessary to restrict the spread of the virus. For many of us, it all became increasingly muddled and confusing.
‘Only Connect!’ wrote E. M. Forster (blissfully unaware of social media or the internetJ) As human beings we are social animals. We live in a society. We need other people. Our world only works because we live and work together. Social isolation, being cut off from one another, for most of us, is akin to death, and yet, in a pandemic, social integration can indeed lead to death. Our world has been turned upside down.
Today, Jesus says to us I am the true vine, here in John’s gospel, as he first addressed these words to the disciples during the last supper. Last week’s imagery concerning sheep and shepherds reflecting a people who could move from place to place is replaced by a different agricultural image, of vines and viticulture reflecting a stable, settled society. Vineyards were a source of great pride and pleasure in biblical times. They were not absolutely necessary for human survival in a fairly arid climate like the wheat and barley fields, or the herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. Vineyards and vines were a sign of prosperity and a sign of being committed to this particular land and place. Vineyards take time to plant, and years to develop, and there is a lot of hard work to press the grapes and ferment the wine. It is a big investment.
The other three gospels have the parable of the vineyard with the bad tenants. The absent owner, God the Father, after the bad tenants have killed the son and heir, eventually removes those bad tenants. Those wicked tenants wanted the produce for themselves, without the investment and commitment to the vineyard and its history of nurture by the owner, God.
This story in John’s gospel is different. Jesus does not tell us that he is the true vineyard in which we must labour to produce fruit. No, Jesus gives us a much more intimate image, not only that he is the true vine, but that we in turn are the branches of that very vine. Not adjacent vines, not cuttings from that vine, but one vine. In a similar manner St. Paul, in Ephesians and Collosians, expresses this unity that we have as Christians with the image of the body, Christ as the head, we as the members. So perhaps we could imagine ourselves as branches with buds and leaves and tendrils.
We can produce good fruits then because we are united to the Son and heir of God the Father, Jesus himself. We can bud and grow because we remain in Jesus as part of the vine. This union as one vine in Jesus is mystical rather than physical. John in his Gospel always wants us to see things in spiritual as well as physical ways. By baptism we are joined to the vine. The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity allow us to flourish in the vine, in the community of the church, his body - in union with Christ. The parable also warns us that we can be cut off by God if we are not fruitful.
But even being fruitful and virtuous and being part of the vine does not spare us pain. Vines need to get pruned; gardeners tell us the roses need pruning to produce more beautiful roses. God does this to us. Pruning well produces plentiful fruit. No pruning means little in the way of fruit. Being pruned is not usually pleasant. All of us have suffered setbacks, pains and disappointments. There have been times when our best hopes and dreams all of which seemed so good and virtuous, have been dashed. United mystically to the true vine Jesus: we accept that these prunings will allow us to become more fruitful, even if we don’t understand how. That new job, that relationship all seemed so good, but they were removed. We are not to be bitter or angry in a time of illness, surgery, weakness – even pandemic. ‘The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’ – ‘These things the Lord has done,’ as the psalmist says.
Jesus told this parable during the last supper. The disciples drank together the cup of wine, the chalice of salvation. Vines are planted to produce wine, which is then drunk to gladden people’s hearts. But Jesus gives us the wine changed by the Holy Spirit into his own blood which was shed for us, that we might be glad of our salvation. The Son and heir to the vineyard, gives us his disciples his blood to drink that we might rejoice. Yes, we are united with Christ our Lord in many different ways in prayer, in good works, in listening to the Word of God, but most of all in the Eucharist where we receive his body and his blood as we re-present his sacrifice to God for our salvation.
All of which is beautiful, but in these covid times, only the presiding priest can drink of the precious blood, which spoils something of the fullness of this Eucharistic Sign and imagery. However, we do receive the whole Christ as we receive his body in the form of bread in Holy Communion. And we are united to Christ even when we are obliged to make a spiritual communion. - Communion is not merely a sign of our being branches of the true vine. Communion is eating Jesus true body and drinking his life-giving blood and is a principal way of remaining in Jesus, just like the sap flows from the roots to the branches in the vine.
And as we remain in Jesus we see how interconnected we all are. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, who is love. We are created for love, to love and to be loved, and this love is not restricted to our nearest and dearest. We belong together always, but in this time of pandemic more than ever. We need each other, just as the various parts of the vine need to be connected to the entire plant. But this is just a tiny example of the unity of the entire cosmos, from the great galaxies and planets, to the smallest particles of matter. All have their place, all work together. As human beings in our little fragment of this entire universe, we have been graced by God with a particular responsibility: to show that love is the overriding force binding all things together.
Credo - The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
See notice sheet + Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, at this sad time. Covid pandemic cases and deaths vaccination programmes. Pray for India – and for those parts of our world where western Aid is being cut back as a result of the pandemic. Pray for WaterAid.
THE CHURCH The unity of all Christians. Our bishop Christopher, and Karowei, Bishop of Woolwich.
THE WORLD Members of governments in every land. Those living in the midst of war and violence, especially Myanmar All refugees and asylum seekers. The people of Hong Kong – Freedom for Jimmy Lai. NATO and the crisis for Ukraine. -Those who have lost their jobs and those whose jobs are at risk.. :- Leadership and the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland facing threats to the peace achieved by the Good Friday Agreement. All G.P.O. employees - We pray for all women affected by or lost to violence. This week: Scottish and Welsh and local govt elections.
THE PARISH AND LOCAL COMMUNITY Those working for the emergency services and all risking their lives in the service of others
THE BEREAVED, THE SICK AND THOSE IN NEED AND THE DEPARTED. see weekly sheet.
“Spiritual Communion” is recommended at any time we cannot physically receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood. It means that God gives us the grace of the sacrament in response to our real desire to receive it. This does not mean that we can get on just as well without receiving Holy Communion, but rather, if the opportunity of receiving it is denied to us for whatever reason, God will not withhold its grace and blessing from us. Here is a form of prayer we can use.
Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me:
Body of Christ, save me:
Blood of Christ, invigorate me:
Water from the side of Christ, wash me:
Passion of Christ, strengthen me:
Cross of Jesus, protect me:
Good Jesu, hear me:
Within your wounds, hide me:
Never let me be separated from you:
From the deadly enemy, defend me:
In the hour of my death call me
and bid me come to you
that with all your saints I may praise you
for ever and ever. Amen.
Eternal God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life: grant us to walk in his way, to rejoice in his truth, and to share his risen life; who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.
May God the Father, by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead, strengthen us to walk with him in his risen life; and may almighty God bless us, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Copyright notice: As well as my own words I have drawn on material from internet sources including websites of The Church of England and The Dominican Friars, electronic sources including those of Redemptorist Publications, and on printed sources including The Gospel of John Barnabas Lindars, Days of the Lord The Liturgical Press, Minnesota. Some Copyright material is included from Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) and The Christian Year: Calendar, Lectionary and Collects(1997, 1998, 1999) copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.
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