John 15 is a famous passage where Jesus begins by saying, I am the vine and God is the gardener, if you want to produce fruit you will remain in me. The passage is all about plants, and comparing our relationship to God and Jesus to plant parts. Plants are constantly growing, and changing. They are rarely the same for very long. If you reflect or read anything about the history of Trinity Church you will see that change is our heritage. Trinity looked different in 1960, 1963, 1970, and so on. From the beginning the church was always on the look out for how God was moving and leading to reach the lost and grow up people in the faith. As we listened tonight we heard stories of how this church has been faithful to how God has led us even when it was hard, or uncomfortable, or unconventional. God blessed that. God blessed our obedience to follow him where he led. God blessed it because we remained in him. Jesus tells us in this passage that we will produce fruit only if we remain in the vine that is Him.
That is our job. Throughout the history of Trinity the work has been all about doing God’s will, about following the Spirit’s leading to do his work. That work has looked different each year, through each consistory, each pastor, but the focus for all of it was Christ. “Remain in me, and you will produce fruit.” As we step into the next 50 years of Trinity it is going to look different. There are going to be ministries that bear great fruit that we cannot even imagine right now. There are methods and means of ministry that we could never imagine that God will bless greatly. No matter what we do or how we do it our driving force is to remain in Christ.
The future of Trinity does not hinge on face book, lemon bread, a certain kind of music, or anything else, it is about Jesus. It is about sharing the love of Christ and the Good News of the Gospel. If we are here to bear fruit, to share the good news, and grow in our faith it does not happen apart from God. And it also is not always done in the same ways. It means that God will lead us in directions and to places that we have never been before. As we move forward that is our measuring stick; in all that we do, are we remaining in Christ, are we following his leading? Because we are a changing place and people, each year new people come in and others follow God’s call to go elsewhere. This is why Jesus mentions the need for pruning. Pruning is done to encourage different growth and greater fruit. It allows for a skilled gardener to carefully remove parts the impeding fruit for further growth and fruit. This passage reminds us that being in Christ is not always comfortable; in fact Jesus will prune back all that does not bear fruit so that the rest of the plant will bear more fruit. As we seek to do this all we do need to remain in him. It is by God and for God that we do everything in this place.
I believe that Jesus has called us as a church and as individuals to remain in him, the true vine. So today I ask that you consider this covenant to one another. To be part of the vine does not promise comfort, it leads us to reliance on Christ. To be part of the vine does not lead us to tradition, but to follow God faithfully. To remain in the vine does not lead us to a perfect never changing plan, but to discern the leading of the Spirit everyday of our lives. I believe we want to be a church that remains in Christ in all that we do, even thought it has looked different each year. This core conviction is something that has not changed since the day this church began.