John 15: 1-8


When the Rev. Robert Schuller was broadcasting his ministry across the television airwaves, he called it “The Hour of Power.” Certainly that title took the mantle of “Positive Thinking” ministries from the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and it has been passed today to Joel Osteen.  But Robert Schuller had a ministry on two levels: there was his broadcast ministry, with the purpose of attracting and inviting people into the Christian life and into the support of his ministries; but he also had a local congregation in Garden Grove, California of members who did not need the milk that new Christians needed across the globe. His local ministry gave members the “meat and potatoes” of Jesus Christ. He was a trained minister in the Reformed Tradition.  Therefore his “Hour of Power” was not just for positive thinking; it was to connect individuals to the power of Jesus Christ. Yes, the Holy Spirit has the power of God; and yes the Heavenly Father of Jesus has the power of God. But through no one is the beam of power so concentrated as through Jesus and his instructions.  “Hymns like “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ name,” draw attention to that power. Healings and exorcisms have occurred, and still occur, along with the pronouncement of the name of Jesus. It is in Jesus’ name that we pray; that we ask for healing; that we ask for comfort.  Jesus is the one who is the power source.


In his day, of course, there was no electricity for him to demonstrate how a light bulb could only light up when it was connected to a power source as I demonstrated to the children today.  So Jesus, I suspect, looked around at what was available and used a different metaphor; one that all people would have understood: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me, and I in them, bear much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing.” A minister was once talking to boys and girls in a children’s sermon. “Who died on the cross?” he asked. “Jesus!” they said. “And who arose from the dead?” he asked. “Jesus!” they said. “And who will come again?” and one exasperated boy said, “Jesus. The answer is ALWAYS Jesus!”  Yep. The answer is always Jesus! Unless you are connected to your power source—to Jesus—you will be like a lamp that is not plugged in! When I travel and wait in airport terminals for my plane, I watch people clump around charging stations to recharge their phones. They are always looking for power! We get it with our phones-we want them regularly charged up. That’s the way to treat our souls and our lives too! When we eat, we charge up our bodies; when we do mental work like learning, testing, or puzzles we charge up our minds. Connecting to Jesus gives power to your soul.  We can connect by personally reading our Bibles; but a supercharged way to connect is to be part of a well-lead Bible study. We can connect with personal prayer, but a supercharged connection happens when we gather as the church to pray. And we can connect not just praying for needs to be met, but also praying for guidance. Then, building in time for listening.


Someone once asked me, “Can we really hear from God in our prayers?” My answer is “Yes!” But too often we drop our prayers at the end of making our requests. We say “amen” and close the conversation. By contrast, look at how we communicate on our phones! A text or a conversation is a two-way street: statement or question, and response; statement or question, and response. We are so used to that! But when it comes to connecting with our power source, we think all we have to do is plug in. That is just the first part. The other part is to listen for directions from Jesus.  Some hear his guidance as an actual voice; some hear his guidance in their dreams, or some have their “ahas” when they are busy doing something else! But we need to condition ourselves to expect an answer.


Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.”  Those instructions certainly need a footnote.  This is a conditional statement because it starts with the word “if.” What was the condition that Jesus explained to his disciples? “If you abide in me.” In other words, if they lived as ones who watched him, ate with him, followed him around, and did what he did, then they would be perfectly in tune with his will, and he was perfectly in tune with his Father’s will. That instruction was a little easier for them to hear and carry out than it is for us. We may have more difficulty stepping into first century Galilee and imagining what it was like to “abide in Jesus.” For us it means first that we work on a constant connection with Jesus as much as we have a constant connection with our phone contact lists. It next means coming to a time of worship and instruction regularly to be in the presence of others and to receive guidance. If you cannot be at a service, then other options of connection can suffice. And finally it means praying to, and listening for, the voice of God. Have you noticed that Jesus was always praying? Jesus! He was always connecting with his power source, which was his Heavenly Father.  And he was demonstrating what his followers were to do.  It was only as disciples fulfilled that job description that they could expect things to be done for them. Those outside of a Jesus relationship are just wasting their breath if they point to John 15: 7, and say “Jesus says ‘ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.” “Hold on friend! I would say. “You skipped some mighty important steps just going for the bottom line.”

There is more to having a power source then just having requests granted.


I hear from many parents that they wished they heard from their children more. And I know some long-time relationships get dropped because of conflicts, misunderstandings, or distance. If you want a relationship with those people, you and they will need to connect again.  If you want a relationship with Jesus, to understand his ways and receive his power, you will need to connect with him.  His hand is always out for you.  As the old Christian folksong from the early 1970s declared, “Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters; put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.” That’s his invitation; the response is up to you.


Let’s now return to Jesus’ words in John 15. In 2001 Bruce Wilkerson captivated the Christian world with his little books “The Prayer of Jabez,” and his second book “Secrets of the Vine.” In the latter book he wrote these words:

Along the terraces that follow the curve of the [Kidron] valley, [Jesus and his disciples] passed through ancient vineyards. They walked in single file between rows of neatly tended grapes, plants that have been bearing fruit for generations. To the left about them tower the city walls and the ramparts of the temple. Ahead and to the right rises the Mount of Olives….Jesus reaches for a grape branch. Showing signs of new spring growth, its woody stem lies across His hand in the golden light [of a burning lamp]. He begins, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” …In the next few minutes Jesus talks quietly about branches and grapes and how a vinedresser cares for his prize vineyard. It certainly isn’t what His disciples expect to hear. But this is the moment Jesus chooses to reveal their surprising destiny.


You see, you and I are part of the prized vineyard of an Almighty vinedresser! Jesus knows that his Father counts on him to be an example, a teacher, and a Savior; Jesus in turn counts on his disciples to be the branches of the vineyard, rooted in him! And what is the purpose of a vineyard? [Yes I know to make wine!] But before that: a vineyard’s purpose is to bear fruit! And as the fruit is picked and distributed, with good care new fruit will grow in its place! But if the grapes are disconnected from the vine by an animal, a careless worker, or strong winds, they drop to the ground and die.  If we are disconnected from the vine like grapes, our souls can drop to the ground and die.  Don’t let that happen! Keep connected with Jesus, the vine, the root, and Jesus will keep connected with his Father’s will. This is the life of being in tune with God. This is where your will, and Jesus’ will, become one.


I will close with the words of Mother Theresa in her book, A Simple Path:

I can tell you about my path, but I’m only a little wire—God is the power.”


Let us pray:

Many here today, O God, are so good at connecting with others; while some may feel isolated or alone. As they put their hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters, speak to them in their silence, their dreams, or their lives. Let them know that you are listening and that they are loved. Then may your words guide and inspire them.  Through Jesus, our true vine. Amen.


Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                          April 29, 2018