Worship Helps for Easter 5

I am the Vine
Eastern Orthodox

Worship Theme: Through faith, we are connected to Christ as a branch is connected to a grape vine. The result of being connected to Jesus is that we will now bear fruit. The fruit of a Christian is a life of love. Out of thanks for God’s love, we now seek to love our fellow man by sharing God’s message of love with him. As believers we seek to show love not only in what we say, but also in what we do.

First Lesson: Acts 16:11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us.

1. Paul and Silas met a group of women in Philippi. What made Lydia notable?

2. No one can decide to ask Jesus into his or her heart. What is the only way someone becomes a believer in the Risen Savior today?

Second Lesson:  1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

3. What aspect of love does John emphasize in verse 18?

4. At times we can begin to doubt whether or not we have true faith and are saved. According to verses 18-20, what evidence of faith can put our hearts at ease?

5. What is the relationship between our faith in Jesus and our love for one another?

Gospel: John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

6. By being connected to Christ through faith, we are saved and produce fruit. How do we stay connected to Christ?

7. Evaluate the following statement. “It is important that a Christian produce fruits of love.”


Answers:
1. Lydia was well-to-do. The Lord opened her heart, and she asked to be baptized, along with the rest of her household. She then asked Paul and Silas to stay with her.

2. When people come to faith today, like Lydia, the gospel must first come to them in some way. Then the Lord must open their hearts to pay attention to it and believe it.

3. In verse 18, John emphasizes that love is more than words. It is very easy to say, “I love you,” but John encourages us to show that love in everything we do.

4. A desire to serve God and show love to others is evidence of the faith that God has given us.

5. Our love for others is a result of faith. Through faith we receive forgiveness, life and salvation. Out of thanks for God’s great love, our faith now wants to live a life of love and service to others.

6. If faith is what binds us to Christ, then the Means of Grace (the Gospel in Word and Sacraments) are what keep us connected to him. Through the Means of Grace, we are united with Christ and are able to produce fruit. If we do not make frequent use of the Means of Grace we become weak, do not produce much fruit and are in danger of separating ourselves from Christ.

7. We receive heaven as a gift of God’s grace through faith. Fruits of love are not necessary for salvation. That being said, however, faith will always produce fruit. The stronger the faith the more fruit it produces. God wants us to produce many fruits of love and commands us to do so. So even though fruits of love are not necessary for salvation, they are still very important. They are still necessary.


Putting your faith into action
Throughout Scripture we can find vividly illustrated messages from God. The illustration from today’s gospel reading was easily understood at the time it was written, and remains clear for us today. Christ is the “true vine,” the perfect vine, to which the branches—some fruitful and some not—are attached. Those of us who follow him, who remain attached to the true vine, are blessed with his promise: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” Then we will truly be his disciples and, as his stewards, “bear much fruit.” With the temptations of this world, remaining attached can sometimes be difficult. The more we experience the nurturing care and love of the gardener, our Father in heaven, however, the more we become willing managers of the resources God gives.


A reading from the Book of Concord for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
We should listen to God’s revealed will.  For He has made “known to us the mystery of His will” (Ephesians 1:9) and made it clear through Christ so that it might be preached.

This is revealed to us in the way Paul says “those whom He predestined [elected and foreordained] He also called” (Romans 8:30). God does not call without means, but through the Word.  For He has commanded “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name” [Luke 24:47].  St. Paul also testifies in a similar way when he writes, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).  The King calls the guests that He wants to have at His Son’s wedding through the ministers He sends out (Matthew 22:2–14).  He sends some at the first and some at the second, third, sixth, ninth, and even at the eleventh hour.

If we want to think about our eternal election to salvation helpfully, we must hold strongly and firmly to this truth: just as the preaching of repentance is universal, so also the promise of the Gospel is universal, that is, it belongs to all people.  For this reason Christ has given these commands:

Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations. (Luke 24:47) – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article XI, God’s Eternal Election (paragraphs 26-28)



Text of the Opening Hymn: Chief Of Sinners Though I Be
Chief of sinners though I be,
Jesus shed his blood for me,
Died that I might live on high,
Lives that I might never die.
As the branch is to the vine,
I am his and he is mine!

Oh, the height of Jesus' love,
Higher than the heav'ns above,
Deeper than the depths of sea,
Lasting as eternity,
Love that found me -- wondrous thought!
Found me when I sought him not.

Only Jesus can impart
Comfort to a wounded heart:
Peace that flows from sin forgiv'n,
Joy that lifts the soul to heav'n,
Faith and hope to walk with God
In the way that Enoch trod.

Chief of sinners though I be,
Christ is all in all to me.
All my wants to him are known;
All my sorrows are his own.
Safe with him in earthly strife,
I await the heav'nly life.

Strengthen me, O gracious Lord,
By your Spirit and your word.
When my wayward heart would stray,
Keep me in the narrow way;
Grace in time of need supply

While I live and when I die.

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