The Lord has planted His people as a choice Vine, that they might share in His Life, and live in Him, bearing good fruits. So do you live by faith in Him, receiving His Life in yourself; and you bear fruits in love, sharing His Life with others.
But the soil has been cursed, because of man's sin. The ground from which you are taken is stained with blood. Plants do not grow easily or well. The grass withers and fades, and all flesh dies. Thorns and thistles choke the Vine. The earth is polluted, the sun beclouded, and the rain insufficient. The vineyard produces more foliage than fruit, and the fruit that it does produce is wild and sour (idolatrous and selfish).
The Father therefore cares for the Vine and cultivates the vineyard by pruning the branches and removing those that bear no fruit, casting them into the fire. This He does, in order that the Vine itself may live in faith and love.
But who, or what, or where is the Vine itself, which is able to live and survive the curse of sin and death? Who, or what, or where is the Vine that is able to thrive and give life to the vineyard?
Christ is the true Vine, the planting of His Father, who dies the death of sin and is buried like a seed into the dust of the ground, in order to redeem and sanctify the soil, the earth, the whole creation. He is the One who rises from death to life, a vital and productive Vine. He abides in faith and love, and He it is who bears much fruit: to the glory of the Father, and to your benefit.
The Cross He has suffered, upon which He died, has become the Tree of Life for all the nations. Because His death has atoned for the sins of the world; His blood has not stained but cleansed the ground; and His Resurrection is the firstfruits of the New Creation.
Now, then, you are grafted into Him, into His Body, and you live in Him as a branch of the true Vine. Abide in Him, therefore, as He abides in you, and so bear good fruit; for apart from Him, you are dead. The good fruit that you bear — the fruit of faith and love — is the produce of that life which you receive and have and live in Him, as He Himself is your Life.
It is by His Word, by the hearing of His Word, that you abide in Him and live; as by and with His Word, by the preaching of His Word, He abides in and with you.
It is by the washing of the water with His Word that you are grafted into Him in Holy Baptism. And by His Word, by His preaching of repentance and forgiveness, you are daily returned to the significance of your Baptism, and "watered" with the life-giving rain of God the Holy Spirit.
You are already clean by the Word that He has spoken, but so does He daily "wash your feet" and "water your soil" with His Word.
He prunes you with His Law, not to hut or destroy you, but in order to open you up to His gifts of Life; that you might be nurtured and sustained by His grace. For His Word of the Gospel, which is the forgiveness of your sins, fills you with the vitality, the life and health and strength, of His own Resurrection from the dead.
With that same Word of the Gospel, He feeds you with the fruits of His Cross: His Body, crucified and risen; and with the fruits of this true Vine: His holy, precious Blood, poured out for you.
By this Word, and by these fruits of Christ, the true Vine, you are enlivened in both soul and body. And as He thus gives you life with God in Himself, so do His fruits produce fruits in you after their own kind. Not only in your heart and mind, but in your flesh and blood, your hands and feet and lips and tongue. So does He bring forth in you the fruits of faith and love toward God, with which you worship Him in Spirit and Truth. And fruits of love toward one another, and toward all your neighbors in the world, within your own vocations and stations in life.
His Word produces these fruits in you, by granting you His Life and love and faithfulness; by forgiving you all of your sins; and by lighting your path in the way you should go.
That pathway is one of faith and love, one of grace and mercy, compassion and kindness. Above all, it is the path of forgiveness, even as God in Christ forgives you. Thus, you proceed along that pathway, bearing the Cross to the glory of God, in the confidence of Christ and His Resurrection from the dead. Abiding in Him, you live.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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