From the Word 

“I Am I Am the Vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 

    We had a grape arbor in our back yard when I was little.  Mom made us wait to eat the grapes until after she had enough for jelly.  Then we ate ourselves sick.  I’m sure I heard the words of Jesus in this text back then, but never stopped to consider how His words were true.  Let’s take time now.
    Vines are the source of life to the branches.  The vine pulls the moisture and the nutrients from the ground and delivers them to the branches so that the branches can grow.  There is no concept of a living branch apart from the vine.
    Jesus is our life and new life.  He is the incarnate Word through whom the Father created all things, thus us.  In an even greater way, He is the only source of eternal life in God’s kingdom.  Those who are not found in Him, by faith, are dead branches to be thrown into the fires of hell.  There are not many sources of eternal life in heaven, there is one.  He has left us with His gifts of Word and Sacraments so that we may receive what we need to be sustained and to grow.
    Unless the vine provides this nourishment to the branches, they cannot produce fruit.  When the fruit is picked, the branches seem most important, but the truly important source of the fruit is the vine.
    The fruit in this analogy is the work produced in us by faith in Jesus.  These are the contributions we make to people’s lives that God magnifies in wondrous blessings.  We do simple things and God makes them wondrous.  It is very easy to puff ourselves up and take credit for what is a blessing to others.  But in reality, we come back to the fact that, without the sustenance of the Vine, there would be no branch, let alone fruit.  We come in humble thanks for the blessings we have received through the fruit of others, and pray that God would produce fruit in us to be such a blessing to others.  We can also be sure that God will use the fruit produced now to continue to bless generations ahead.  Fruit has been picked off this vine since the world began, and will continue until the last day, when we will receive the fruit of His life, death, and resurrection in the glory of heaven.
    Consider the Vine.  We are the branches.

 

From the Word 

“I AM I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 

    God the Father is a mystery to many people, because He is the One behind the cloud.  Luther called Him the “veiled majesty.  Sinful man cannot behold His glory and live.  How can we know such a One as this, let alone be in His presence?
    In Jesus, He came into our presence, that He might bring us to God.  He came to be “God with us” so that we could be with God.  In this text He assures us about our relationship with God.
I Am I AM the Way
    Yahweh came among us, not simply to show us the way, but to be the way to God.  The way to God is not at all what natural man thinks it is.  Natural man sees nature, works, meditation, spirituality, and so many other ways to God.  But there is only one way to God.  That way is the way of Gethsemane, Pilate’s hall, Calvary, the tomb, ascended to the right hand of the Father.  He will return to complete the journey, body and soul.  We seek to steer our fellow human beings away from the dead ends of this world to the Way.
I AM I AM the Truth
    Today we are told that truth is relative, up to each person to determine on their own.  This is humanist nonsense, intended by Satan to destroy us by destroying the truth.  Jesus didn’t just tell the truth, He is the truth.  The truth is found in God’s Word; God’s incarnate Word.  The truth revealed in the Bible is Jesus, the truth.  Forgiveness, daily grace, life in heaven, are all results of the truth.
I AM I AM the Life
    Jesus is the Word that God spoke to bring life into the World (Genesis 1, John 1:1-18).  When we caused death by sin, God promised Life would come to give us life.  He has come “that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).  Isaiah promised that the coming Messiah would swallow up death forever (Isaiah 25:7-8).  Jesus has swallowed death on the cross and conquered death forever by His death and resurrection.  Because of the life we have received from Him, we will be with God forever in heaven. 
    The mysterious God has come.  Jesus has not only revealed the Father to us, but has opened the way for us to dwell in God’s house and presence forever.  He did this, not by showing us the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but by being the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

 

From the Word 

“I AM I AM the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me, though He die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”  John 11:25-26 

    We live in a time where theory is held in high esteem.  Darwin’s theory of evolution (as it has come to evolve) is passed off as scientific truth without having passed any of the tests that establish scientific truth.  Theory is passed off as truth in the areas of economics, psychology, sociology, and nearly all other social sciences. 
    In the context of such theoretical teaching, it shouldn’t surprise us that there are so called Christian theologians who maintain that it is not necessary that we believe in actual resurrection, as long as our hearts and spirits are raised.  In such Christian settings worship becomes a pep rally to make us feel good, void of substance and any real comfort.  Hope is replaced by positive thinking and self-esteem.  Feeling good about ourselves is considered on par with the confidence of eternal life in heaven.
    WHAT UTTER NONSENSE!!!  The sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, were not experiencing theoretical grief.  Their brother actually died and they were experiencing real grief because they missed the one they dearly loved.  Jesus answer in this text was not to raise their spirits, but to raise their brother.  In so doing He demonstrates His power over death, which He magnifies in His own resurrection.
    We don’t live in theory, we live in reality.  That reality includes the imperfections caused by sin in the world.  Those problems are not theoretical, they are real.  The guilt and shame are real.  The strained relationships are real.  Sickness is real.  Death is real.
    Through “the Resurrection and the Life,” forgiveness is real.  That forgiveness removes what separates us from God, and we use it to be reunited in our personal relationships.  God’s grace is greater than our problems, our guilt, and our shame.  Through the resurrection of Jesus, we are assured of eternal life, body and soul, in the heaven prepared for us by Jesus.  Our worship is an interaction with the present, risen Savior.  Our readings and hymns point us to the reality of Jesus, crucified and risen.  Hope is confidence in the promises of God that assure us as we walk by faith on this earth, and is the confidence of eternity with God in heaven.  THAT’S NO THEORY!!!

 

From the Word 

“I AM I AM the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” 
John 10:11 

    Jesus identifies Himself as Yahweh in Psalm 23.  He calls us to see Him as the Shepherd of Old Testament fame.  He is Yahweh, the Lord, who called Moses from the burning bush.  He came to earth to be our deliverer from sin.  His name (Yeshua/Jesus) means “Yahweh saves.”  He uses I AM I AM in this text to identify Himself as the Shepherd of Psalm 23.
   I AM I AM is my Shepherd, I shall not be in need.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.
    God provides for all our needs, body and soul.  The greatest provision is His coming in the person of our Good Shepherd, Jesus, to redeem us body and soul, bringing us to God, and assuring us of eternal life in heaven.  He did this by His death for us and His resurrection.
   He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.  Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.  You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. 
    Jesus entered the valley of the shadow of death to shepherd us through by dying and rising again.  He has conquered our enemies, sin, death, and Satan.  The Good Shepherd’s death and resurrection has conquered once and for all time.
   You anoint my head with oil.  My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
    Jesus said, “I am with you all the days, even to the end of the age.”  Where He is, so also are His goodness and mercy.  They have followed us all our days in this life, and will continue until this life ends.  As He has dwelt with us, so we will dwell with Him in heaven forever.  All this because the Good Shepherd (I AM I AM) laid down His life for the sheep.  As you walk by faith in this life toward heaven, know you are in the arms of I AM I AM, the Good Shepherd.

From the Word 

“I AM I AM the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and go in and out and find pasture.”  John 10:9 

    How do you get into St. Paul’s Lutheran Church?  The ordinary answer is by opening the red door just off the large sidewalk that goes up to the building.  Since St. Paul’s is the Church in this place, the best answer is by the gate to the kingdom, Jesus Christ.
    In the context of the verse quoted above, we see thieves who try to get in by another way.  So much of the world sees eternal life, heaven, end of life reward as a destination that has many paths leading to it.  So many people think that all religions lead to the same thing, just by different means.  They see many different doors with the same prize behind them all.  Most, if not all of these systems of thought, see their works as the means by which they achieve getting through the door to heaven.
    But Jesus calls such beliefs “thieves.”  There is no entrance into the kingdom of God by any other way than Jesus.  The problem is sin.  Sin is a stain that cannot be removed by trying to overcome it, simply doing more good things than bad.  Jesus alone offers atonement for sin.  He alone came to take our sins, because He alone could do that.  We sinners cannot bear our own sins, let alone the sins of others.  Jesus, the sinless Son of God, has taken our sins away.  He is the only way into the kingdom.
    By faith, we are members of His kingdom, the Church.  According to the text, we go in and out and find pasture.  We know the safety and security of the Church.  We feed on the bread of Life through the Word and the Sacraments present in our worship.  We drink the living water as we focus on His Word, then share it.  We live in a world where the wolves threaten, but we live with the sufficient grace of God to meet the challenges here.  We seek to bring others into the fold as we tell them about the door, Jesus our Savior.
    Jesus is the door to our congregation, to the Church on earth, and the Church in heaven.  He came to open the way by His death and resurrection and has gone to the Father to ensure our entrance by grace through faith.  Every time you see a door, remember Jesus, the door to hope, joy, peace, love, grace, and glory.