Are We Fruitful Vines?

from Rev. Hamish Christie-Johnston


A few Sundays ago (22 June 2008) we celebrated our Anniversary.  We took as one of our readings the passage in John where Jesus describes himself as the vine and his followers as the branches, and reminds them/us that we are to bear fruit.  Amongst other things I invited the congregation to reflect on the way some of the grape vines are cultivated on the Greek Island of Santorini.  On a windswept hillside with white gravelly soil the vines have been woven into basket shapes and I was led to understand that this meant that the grapes would be able to ripen inside the baskets protected from the wind.

Around the world, viticulturalists have learned which are the best grape varieties and what are the best ways to prune their vines to suit the climate and circumstances of their vineyards and the fruit they hope to produce.

So it must be with us.  Our culture, “climate” if you like, is constantly changing, with all kinds of “plants” growing, some producing good “fruit” and some just weeds and some are even poisonous!

We must listen to the Spirit of God and be willing to be shaped – pruned – to the best form to produce God’s preferred fruit where we find ourselves.

In today’s kind of world we are faced with a particular challenge as we try to discover the nature of the church which is appropriate for God’s future.  There is a series of little pamphlets which was published by the World Council of Churches.  I don’t know whether to apologise or not, but the point I want to make, I found in the pamphlet entitled “The Scottish Highlands”.  In a chapter which reflects on the ways in which the communication of the Gospel has varied over the years, there is a section which reads:

“Ways had to be found of reaching the people where they lived, because the institutional churches had difficulty in making a uniform impact across the districts under their care.

Missionary endeavour thus reflects a continuous tension between the institutionalising of the faith and the fundamental command of Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person.  Flexibility, rather than rigidity, was essential, but such flexibility could be provided only by employing the ‘go-structures’ of mission rather than the ‘come-structures’ of the institutionalised church”.

So we ask God to help us find the go-structures for Warragul and you here.

Of course we are not the only church in Warragul and part of our journey as Christians will be through the way we live with each other at the local level in our worship and our witness and our service.

What should you build on the foundation you have here?

What kind of vine will be most fruitful?  What are your go-structures?

Pray that the Spirit of Pentecost will fill you with a go-attitude!

Thank God for the journey of the last two years (since this church moved into it's new building), the last thirty one years (since the inception of the Uniting Church), the last 125 years of the Church in Warragul, the last two millennia.

Thank God for the assurance of the Spirit into God’s future.

By the way, I’m hoping to meet most of you in the groups being organised by the Elders in the next few weeks!