Fifth Sunday of Easter

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Gospel: John 15:1-8

A reading from the Gospel of John.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus said:] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


When we’re little, we often try to model our siblings, parents, or other grown-ups around us. We attempt what the people around us do. We adopt mannerisms and we say words that we don’t really understand.

If you’ve spent time with younger family members or friends, you might notice they’re paying very close attention to you. They’re trying to figure out how to be people; they’re learning how to be in the world.

Too often in the church, I think we pretend that we know exactly how to be God’s faithful people. 

In love and our best intentions, we try to be the people God wants us to be, not quite understanding it. Often we mess up and look a little silly.

But, the story in Acts of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch reminds us that God loves and celebrates our best attempts to be the people God calls us to be. God loves our best efforts, and even sends mentors and guides like Philip to help us understand more. We’re all like little children, living into the hope that as we try to follow God, we’ll be blessed like the Ethiopian Eunuch even if we don’t understand.


This connection between resurrection and living a life of love and service to others continues this week in our texts. The primary challenge is to be those who bear fruit and the fruit we are called to bear is Christ-like, sacrificial love that creates a world in which God’s righteousness and justice last for generations.

Acts 8:26-40: Philip is instructed to go to a certain road where he encounters an Ethiopian eunuch on his way home after worshipping in Jerusalem. Philip finds him reading Isaiah’s scroll, and explains what the Scriptures say about God. Then he baptizes the eunuch.

Psalm 22:25-31: A psalm of praise and commitment in which God is celebrated for God’s provision and authority, and all people are challenged to worship God, to fulfill promises to God, and to proclaim God’s righteousness to unborn generations.

1 John 4:7-21: Tells us to love one another, because God is love. 

If we cannot love our brothers and sisters whom we have seen, we cannot love God whom we do not see. 

But, as God has loved us, we should be inspired to love God in our hearts. And we show that by loving one another. Such love drives out fear.

John 15:1-8: We are told Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. God desires us to bear fruit, and to do so we must remain in Christ. The primary challenge is to be those who bear fruit for the sake of Christ, and the fruit we are called to bear is Christ-like, sacrificial love that creates a world in which God’s righteousness and justice last for generations.


When we are called to “bear fruit”, that may feel intimidating. There are two emphases in this call. The first is to “remain in” Christ—dwelling in deep, life-giving connection with Christ. The experiences of Philip, who is guided by God’s Spirit, and of the eunuch who comes to faith through Philip’s work are examples of this dwelling in Christ. 

The second emphasis is to “bear fruit”. What this fruit might be is explained in the other passages. John’s letter explains that the test of our discipleship, and the “proof” of our love for God is our love for others. This speaks about love as the commandment Jesus gives his disciples.

Philip’s obedience to the Spirit, and gentle witness to the Ethiopian eunuch is an example of this fruit bearing—sharing God’s grace and love with others (who would usually not be welcomed—as a Gentile and a eunuch this man would not have been permitted into the temple) in such a way that it changes the world for time to come—I believe some scholars have speculated that this eunuch could have founded the Ethiopian church that continues to this day. That’s quite some fruit! 

What this week’s theme boils down to is that our love for God must flow out into love for others—both Christian companions and others—in such a way that they too come to love God and others.

Global Application:
On a global scale, this week’s idea of a justice or righteousness that is proclaimed to unborn generations is compelling. So often even our quest to love as Christ did is so immediate and short-sighted that we fail to recognize the long term impact of what we are allowing in our world, and sometimes, our work for justice now results in long term consequences that undermine or even negate the good we have created in the short term. 

For example, a few years ago, using biofuels to address short term energy needs and climate change issues, resulted in great social challenges for third world countries as grain prices went up and food became increasingly scarce as crops were diverted to the more profitable biofuel industry. As we seek to respond to the call of this week’s readings to bear fruit, we need to acknowledge that true love does not seek the “quick fix” but is willing to commit to the long term, seeking true justice and attempting to bear fruit that lasts. This is a massive challenge in a world in which corporations are measured quarterly and Presidents have to prove themselves in 100 days. 

The addiction to immediate solutions and benefits is bringing suffering in so many ways—from human trafficking of children as cheap labor in the chocolate industry, to sweat shops in the clothing and technology industries, to the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, and the list goes on and on. But, the mark of our love as disciples of Christ today will be seen in generations to come by whether our world is more just, equitable and sustainable because of our efforts now to love well.

Local Application:
On a local and personal level, Philip’s example is a good one for us to follow as we seek to love God and others, and bear fruit for Christ. A number of factors stand out in this “fruit-bearing” moment of Philip’s. 

  • He was willing to be driven out of his way by his love for and obedience to God. 
  • He was willing to engage someone who was very different from him, and who would usually have been marginalized by his people. The eunuch was a foreigner, a Gentile and a man who had been castrated and was therefore, in one sense, unclean. 
  • He was also willing to meet the man where he was, beginning the conversation from the questions and reading of the eunuch. 
  • He did not impose his own agenda on the man, but listened and responded graciously and gently. 
  • Finally, he welcomed the eunuch into the community of faith by baptizing him without question. 

All of these loving acts are the ones Jesus calls all his followers to perform in order to bear fruit. Our love for God is truly revealed as we act in these loving ways toward one another, and to the “outsiders” we encounter.

And, as we welcome, listen to, serve, and love others, the impact of that on their lives can have healing, transforming, and empowering effects that can flow out to touch others and make a real difference in the world. To change the world we don’t need to do “great” or dramatic things. We simply need to love the people God sends across our path genuinely, humbly and sacrificially.


Growing things can be so difficult because it involves a lot of waiting and a lot of uncertainty. 

I grew up in a small farming town, and I learned from them that even with all of the advancements science has made in helping plants be stronger and grow better, farmers still have to put a lot of trust in the weather. An exceptionally wet spring or a dry June can wreak havoc on a growing season.

In the gospel lesson from today, Jesus reminds us that no matter how fickle the growing season, if we stick close with him, we’ll bear fruit. Jesus reminds us to trust in him. Even when it feels like we haven’t sprouted a new leaf or grown fruit in so long, Jesus says to trust, and to draw close to him.

Often we hope that Jesus will make us bear fruit. We show up when that is all we can do. We end up going through the motions, just like little kids imitating older people. We might not feel it, and we might not totally understand what is happening, but all of it still counts as drawing near to Jesus. Every time we show up to do the work of ministry and loving other people, even and especially when we don’t feel like it, we are drawing close to Jesus. We are leaning into the trust that God will work in us and we will bear fruit.