GOSPEL MESSAGE & RECORDING
As we celebrate the day of Pentecost, which occurred two thousand plus years ago to the beloved Disciples of Christ, we are reminded in the Gospel reading today that we are the branches and Christ is the vine and God the Father is the vinedresser. (St. John 15: 1) As residents of this area, we are not necessarily aware of plants that have vines. We are however more accustomed to seeing trees and its branches. If we were to travel to California or a Mediterranean country we would see grapevines with its branches in abundances. Observing more closely, we would see that the vine is strong yet flexible, a thick stem that has branches, which yields its fruit.
Christ refers to himself as the vine and God the Father as the vinedresser. First, the vine carries to the branches and its growing fruit the necessary nutrients and water. Second, the vinedresser is a person who prunes and maintains the plant in terms of health and longevity. Third, the Gospel portion continues and Christ refers to those who believe in Him as the branches. (St. John 15:5) So then, Christ is the vine. The Father is the vinedresser. We are the branches. So then where does the Holy Spirit fit in? The Gospel portion does not necessarily make reference to the Holy Spirit. But with a closer look, we can infer that the water, which is poured out by the vinedresser (God the Father), is the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the fruit that the branches produce is the good fruits/gifts of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5: 22-23.
Today being Pentecost we should reflect on the Holy Spirit and in the context of the passage, as I inferred, determine if we have the “water” and “nutrients” flowing inside of us.
Imagine if slowly the plant stopped getting water. Within a matter of a couple of days, the signs of deterioration would be visible. Vital nutrients, which make its way to the fruit by water, would cease. Eventually, the plant would die.
Do you see how important it is, in terms of this analogy, to have the Holy Spirit in our lives? But as Christians, we often neglect the Holy Spirit. And for that reason, we are unable to live a Christian life—full of purpose and meaning—and fulfilling our destiny and legacy here on Earth.
Granted we are all still living and moving on with life. But that’s the point! We will live life and keep moving with our day-to-day lives but making minimal gains for Christ and His Kingdom. We lack the water inside of us to would empower us to accomplish great things for God.
Most Christians are “connected” but not “empowered.”
Connected: In the context of the analogy, we are the branches and have an awareness that we are connected, or rather, need to be connected to Christ; and every now and then, we ask the Father to prune our sinful habits (50 day Lent) but eventually end up back where we started. Being connected means simply that: we try to stay connected to the Orthodox Church, to what our parents have taught us, or we do just enough to feel connected to Jesus and or the Church. But isn’t being Christian more than being connected? It is sad that only a minority of Christians find their way and become empowered.
Empowered: This means that there is an internal passion or drive that propels us to live for Christ. This occurs when being connected is not enough. There is a hunger for something more than just Qurbana, fellowship, Bible Studies. In other words, something inside of us wants to know Christ more and when such feels occur we go into deep prayer followed by fasting. This can go on for some time, until at one time and place, and sometimes within a few occurs, God sends the Holy Spirit into our bodies and we are suddenly filled. Like water poured into a cup and fills its shape, so also the Holy Spirit fills us from top to bottom. From here we will begin to manifest the fruits of the Holy Spirit: joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Further, we will begin to manifest, as fitting to our ministry, gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation.