CONNECTED - SERMON AND REFLECTIONS ON JOHN 15:1-9 - REV. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered at
Eucharistic Choral Evensong
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
Fifth Sunday of Easter May 2, 2021
The story is told of a grandfather who took his two-year old granddaughter out for ice cream. As they were beginning to cross a busy street the grandfather offered the girl his thumb. “You have to hold it tight until we’re inside the ice cream shop, okay” he told her. “This is a busy street.” The girl took one look at the outstretched hand wrapped her left fist around her right thumb, and said. “No, thank you. I can hold my own.”
No, thank you. I can hold my own. A perfect slogan for our rugged individualism. No wonder we distrust institutions. Religion: we say is our won spiritual journey.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus says.
Edgy and tattooed Lutheran pastor and writer Nadia Bolz-Weber says that Christianity is a lousy religion for the “I can hold my own” or “I can do it myself” set. We are meant to be connected-to be tangled up together. We need the church. When your mom dies, your Yoga teacher isn’t going to bring you a casserole.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says, “If everything is connected to everything else, then everybody is ultimately responsible for everything…. We find ourselves in a luminous organism of sacred responsibility.”
Even nature testifies to this fact.
I couldn’t help but think about the wonderful image of the vine and branches. It had me thinking about how during the fifty days of Easter in most places, nature has sluffed off it wintry shells and awaken. The wonderful vibrant and vast array of flowers and trees are in full bloom. If you suffer from allergies, you know that all too well.
I found out, that when we look at a tree, we usually see a single entity. Yet some foresters suggest that trees are social beings. One German forester observed that trees help each other when they are sick or in need, pumping nutrients to each other. Forest, then, are super organisms with interconnections much like ant colonies. Trees communicate with each other and their own kind of social security, sharing water and nutrients so that each tree can be the best tree it can be.
What does it mean to truly thrive and live?
We are grafted to the vine, yes, but we are bound to one another in love.
In some ways, these days we’re more interconnected than ever with other people. Remember when we had to wait for a letter to arrive in the mail? Now we have email.
Yet, studies are showing that constant connectivity has a downside. Social media is causing greater isolation, depression, and loneliness among so many. Our devices are designed to addict us to them. Soon we are more responsive to our “smart” or maybe “stupid phones” than we are to other people.
We are all interconnected. Yet being tangled together is downright hard. Where will we draw the vital nourishment, the eternal energy, the hope to flourish?
I am the vine, you are the branches. We draw our very life from Christ the vine. At this table we are nourished to bear fruit in and for the world.
This vine is also a tree, the tree of life. For us, the branches of this tree-- the cross--reach out to us and all in welcome. Lord Jesus you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, so that all may come within your saving embrace. The sap of the tree is healing and new life.
~Rev. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.