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Jun 30th: Returning Home, with Rev. Tyler McQuilkin.

Posted: Sun, Jun 30, 2024
Returning Home with Rev. Tyler McQuilkin. Series: QUEST: The Awakened Traveler A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: John 15:1-17. Join us this Sunday as Tyler unpacks Jesus’ final teaching to his disciples in John 15, where he calls himself the true vine and calls us to remain rooted in our relationship with him. What if abiding in Christ is not merely a set of rules but a means for growth, fruitfulness, and transforming love for others?

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Tyler McQuilkin


Returning Home with Rev. Tyler McQuilkin. Series: QUEST: The Awakened Traveler A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: John 15:1-17.

Join us this Sunday as Tyler unpacks Jesus’ final teaching to his disciples in John 15, where he calls himself the true vine and calls us to remain rooted in our relationship with him. What if abiding in Christ is not merely a set of rules but a means for growth, fruitfulness, and transforming love for others?


John’s Gospel is the only gospel that tells this extended story of Jesus’s last evening with His disciples. The gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke all share some details of what Jesus did with his disciples on this last evening with them, but this is all limited to usually just a chapter or section of a chapter, John goes into great detail on this last last evening with the disciples, he dedicated five chapters of his gospel to tell the events and the conversations that went on during the last evening Jesus spent with his disciples, Jesus gives a final teaching to his desire to his disciples that I’m sure he hopes they will remember once he leaves them. Jesus says in John 15, I am the true vine, and my father is the vine grower. 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, 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. Now you might be familiar with the seven I am statements that Jesus makes in John’s Gospel. These are statements Jesus makes about himself to describe his relationship to the world and to humans. In his I am statements, he says he is the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the Good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the Way, the Truth and the Life. And the last one comes here in John 15, on this last evening with his disciples, Jesus says, I am the true vine. And then he calls the disciples the branches that branch off from the true vine. Now remember, this was the last night that Jesus spent with His disciples. He knew what was coming, and he knew that a transition was coming in their lives because of what was about to happen to him when you know a loved one is entering a new chapter in life, what do you do? They could be leaving for college or starting a new job or maybe getting married, no matter the change coming up, we tend to give advice or share important words to them before those we love enter this new stage in their life. And in a similar way, Jesus is doing this with his disciples before he leaves. So what is this final wisdom Jesus wishes to share with His disciples? When you first hear it. It sounds pretty simple. Jesus tells the disciples to abide in Him. Now we don’t use this word abide too often in our modern English, the Greek word used for abide could also be interpreted as remain in or stay. Essentially, Jesus’s final teaching to His disciples is to stay in relationship with Him, to stay rooted in Christ. So often, either when people think about Christianity or have questions or skepticisms about Christianity, the quote, unquote rules of Christianity come to mind. People either say I could never be a Christian because of the rules you have to follow and how rigid Christians are with their life and their worldview, or some say, I like the idea of Jesus or being a Christian, but there’s something I just don’t want to give up in my life that Jesus probably requires. So some might hear what hear this language when Jesus says, Abide in me, and they might take this as a set of rules you have to obey. I think this is a sad reality, and I think it’s a very fair critique of how Christianity is often lived out today. If you were to ask a group of pastors what they think Jesus might mean by abiding in him. Hmm, depending on the pastor and their theological convictions, I think you would likely get a range of responses. Some might say you have to sign off on a certain set of beliefs or doctrines, and having the right beliefs is what makes it so you are truly abiding in Christ. Others might emphasize certain types of behavior that you embody. This might might focus more on purity or sobriety or having a clear routine or set of practices that makes you a good abiding Christian. And other pastors might focus on a certain set of issues to align yourself with, like a certain cause to work for, or social issue to give yourself to. In short, all of these responses easily fall into this idea of rules and regulations that make up Christianity. One theologian says that all of these answers fall into mechanical compliance instead of organic change, because you put all of your focus on busyness for Jesus rather than friendship with Jesus. Christians today find it a lot easier to fill up their lives and their schedules with service, study and meetings and work, thinking that this busy schedule is what makes them loved by God. And this theologian goes on to say what we are doing is inferring the love of God. Instead of experiencing and drawing on the love of God. When we think of abiding in Jesus, we have to be careful not to fall into a specific set of behaviors, beliefs or routines that will think that we think will make Jesus happy and loving toward us, rather than abiding or staying or remaining in and with the actual person of Jesus Christ. So although Jesus is leaving the disciples here and they won’t be in physical proximity to him anymore. Jesus tells them to lean into the time they have spent together, and to remember and live into the life Jesus lived. To make this clear, Jesus gives the disciples this this seventh and final I am statement. Jesus says to the disciples, I am the vine and you are the branches. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me. Jesus is simply calling himself the source of our lives and the source of the fruit we bear with our lives. Most of us here probably buy a Christmas tree each winter. We maybe go out to the Deschutes forest and cut down this tree, we put it up in our home and decorate it with all sorts of colorful ornaments and lights and decorations, and this helps put us in the Christmas spirit. It looks good for a while, and it’s fun to have in our homes, but eventually the tree starts to change. I’m sure we all know that when you take down the ornaments and lights from the tree, the branches are not as strong as they were when you first decorated it, when you take it down and lug it out of your house, green and brown, probably a lot of brown needles scatter across the Carpet, leaving a big job for your vacuum cleaner. And we all know why this happens, because we have taken the tree away from its source of life. We have literally cut it down and removed it from its natural place of rest. Sure we water it to keep it alive for a little bit. But this is only a temporary fix. When Jesus tells His disciples to abide in him, it is to tell the disciples what gives them life and to help them continue to grow by staying rooted in Christ. Jesus continues in this final conversation with the disciples, saying, My Father is glorified by this that you bear much fruit and become my disciples as the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Abide in my love if you keep my commandments. Jesus, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. Abiding in Christ is not an end in itself. Jesus has growth in mind for his disciples, so that they bear fruit and produce good things in the world because of their transformation and life as disciples, whether it is in Jesus certain behavior, a political party, maybe it’s a relationship or something else we view as important and valuable. Everyone has a vine that they try to root themselves in. The difference between Jesus and so many other vines we try to root ourselves in is that so many other vines will let you down, whether it is another person an activity, we find value in our political identity or maybe our career. We find fulfillment and see the good things that come out of these but at some point, our spouse or a friend will let us down. We might get tired of the hobby or activity we find value in politics change with the times and things change in our career that make it hard to find fulfillment in the difference here is that Jesus has growth and producing fruit in mind for His disciples, He tells them that when they abide in Him, they will inevitably produce fruit for the world. And when we think about this fruit, we can look to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, where he names the fruits of the Spirit. And I think it is safe to assume that the fruit of abiding in Jesus would likely be similar to the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians chapter five, Paul says the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, when we abide in Christ, when our life reflects the life of Christ, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control become natural to us. At the end of this conversation, Jesus gives the disciples one final command before he leaves them. Jesus says to them, This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends. If you do what I command you, I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my father. You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him. In my name, I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. Ultimately, Jesus wants the disciples to love to lay down their lives in humility and to be friends. In my intro to Christian theology class that I took in undergrad, the professor started the class by writing a very short sentence on the whiteboard. He wrote because of the revelation of Jesus Christ, blank and then he just put a little blank line. He said that every theological statement we make about God, what it means to be human and about creation and so much more should be made through this lens. Because of the revelation of God. In Jesus Christ, we can say what it means to love each other. We can say what it means to lay down our lives for others, and we can know what it means to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. So when Jesus gives this command to love. Love. We don’t have to look at the world or or our sense of what love is. We look to the person of Jesus Christ, the fact that God came to the world and revealed God’s self to us in Christ. And by looking at this revelation, we can begin to understand and know what God’s love for us is and how we are called to extend that love to others. We are closing this series called the awakened traveler. Summer is a popular time to travel. Many of us leave home. We encounter other people and places and experiences. We then reflect on these encounters away from home and we leave changed. Finally, we return home as we look at the spiritual journey and how new encounters and reflections impact our faith when we return home, abiding in Christ, this command to love continues to expand to the new places, people and ideas we encounter, we love those we encounter that are Different than us, that don’t share our exact same views. We are called to abide in Christ, to bear fruit and to love, though it’s not always easy, and we often fail to do this well, God continues to give us grace so we can bear this fruit of love to a world that desperately needs it. Amen. Amen.

Related Ministries:

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