‘Abiding in God’ -May 2nd 2021

Acts 8:26-end, Ps.22:25-31, 1Jn.4:7-end, John 15:1-8

‘Abiding in God’

May 2nd 2021

I wonder what you’re like at being still – just ‘being’ – at abiding. The word Jesus refers to means to stay, to live, to reside, to continue, to remain in the presence of. I confess that I’m not always particularly good at it. I generally like to be active, to be creative; to produce something. My default setting seems to be more of a ‘Human Doing’ than a ‘Human Being’. Jesus is drawing our attention here to a different way of being productive and uses imagery of the day that folks could relate to. A branch on its own is no good; for it to be fruitful it must remain attached to the source of its life. Jesus is telling us that the same applies with our own lives. It’s not about what plans we have and what we can do on our own … it’s all about what we can do with Him.

Jesus said: ‘Abide in me ….. those who abide in me, and I in them, bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing’ This doesn’t mean we can’t achieve anything, but Jesus is telling us that outside of relationship with Him, we will not achieve things of any lasting value or purpose.

I’m sure that we would all like our lives to stand for something. To know at the last that we made a difference in some way. Jesus is sharing a promise when he tells us that if we ‘abide in him’ then we will be living lives that are at the centre of God’s will and when we are at the centre of God’s will then we can’t help but be fruitful. I want that for myself.  I long to be fruitful and not just busy! I want that for my family and I want that for this church.

As we all emerge from the interruption and deadly disturbance of the pandemic, we are aware of a need to rebuild. To rebuild lives, businesses and confidence. As a church we have worked together to try and ensure that we have remained connected even though we have not been meeting as we used to and there has been a longing over the last year to return to the familiar, to return to what we had before. But should we? Early in the first lockdown there was much conversation over us entering back into a ‘new normal.’ An expectation that the world will have changed.  Many leaders are talking already of a situation akin to the years immediately after the war, where there was a widespread recognition of the need to plan and restructure the very way in which we live our lives. It’s an opportunity to rethink the way we do things and as Church I believe we would do well to embrace it.

Bishop Nick is encouraging us to consider four key questions. What are we doing now as a result of the pandemic that we need to keep and what do we need to loose? What did we used to do before the pandemic that we need to keep and what do we need to loose?

You might be thinking of responses to those questions already and that’s good. I got quite excited when I first heard them. Perhaps it’s issues of our ‘online’ presence, alterations to the way in which we express our worship, developing relationships with our communities, developing the building, developing our financial situation etc etc.     We need a new policy, action plan, working party and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of those, but Jesus is pointing us in a different direction. Slow up. Slow down.                         ‘Abide in me.’ Stay with me, spend time with me, listen to me, and receive from me

Despite me wanting to ‘produce’ something, the most significant moments in my life have been where I have stepped back, let go and let God do something in me and through me. Moments where I didn’t rush in and instead sat and sought and stilled myself before God. Staying connected with the Lord is where we find the strength and the heart and the knowledge of what our next move might be. That is where we will be fruitful. It’s a lifestyle choice to stay connected to our source of life, love and hope.

New developments might be exciting but many of us are tired and weary. Some of us are ill, some of us are anxious, some are confused and apprehensive, some are eager for change. No matter how we feel, the direct promise of Jesus is that the future is fruitful if we’re abiding in HIM. When we spend time with God we manoeuvre ourselves into a place where we can hear Him, respond to Him, and crucially, be fruitful for Him.  That is something that we have to want for ourselves, want for the church and be prepared to take our own responsibility over. I long for my life, my family and this church’s life to be fruitful.

The Eunoch was spending time with God but needed help – Philip was on hand and able to do so. That is fruit of abiding. John speaks of loving one another and knowing God’s love in us. That is fruit of abiding. King David in the Psalm speaks about those who genuinely seek the Lord will know Him and praise Him. That is fruit of abiding.

When I consider the challenges that lie ahead of us as we seek to grow Christ’s church in this Dale it could be easy to become quite overwhelmed, but I have been reminded this week how the world was changed by just 12 people waiting and abiding in Him.

Everything we need is to be found in Him – our life source.