May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Many people suffer from mental health issues but are afraid to reach out for help due to the stigma attached to mental health problems. The pandemic has created a mental health crisis. We have some good mental health resources in Owensville such as Compass Health (437-2959). If you are feeling troubled, please reach out for help.
The United Church of Christ has a program called WISE network https://www.mhn-ucc.org/becoming-wise/ . This program encourages churches to becoming welcoming of those with mental health issues. If you like more information about this program, please let me know.
During this Easter Season of the Church we will be exploring what the Resurrection means as we seek to live in community. Who are we because Jesus rose from the tomb? How should we live? Think about what this means in your own life. Please share your thoughts with me.
If you need anything, please call me at the church office (437-2779).
Prayers and Blessings,
Pastor Stephanie DeLong
For Sunday Prayers and more click here Download Bulletin for Sunday May 2
Scripture Lesson: Please read these passages in your Bible at home. If you do not have a Bible, we have many at church and would love to give you one.
Acts 8:26-40, Psalm 22:25-31, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8
Sermon: Living as Vines
Last week I spoke about sheep and how human beings and sheep have many things in common. Today Jesus provides for us a new metaphor for our relationship with him. Jesus is the true vine and we are branches growing from the vine.
Jesus loves us and wishes to nourish us as we grow in faith. Jesus’ Father cares for us like a grower of vines, a Divine Gardener. Many of us have gardens, so we can think about this image as it relates to our own lives. A good gardener cares about the plants and tends to the vine and the branches. Seedlings are only placed into the ground outside when conditions are right. If snow unexpectedly arrives in April, we cover the tender young plants and seek to protect them from harm.
Fruit trees or vines in a vineyard that have been growing for years require a different type of attention. We are blessed to live in a place that has vineyards. Perhaps you have fruit trees and grape vines around your home. We know that the vines need to be watered, fertilized, tended to for disease and mold, pruned and harvested.
Jesus speaks of being the true vine. Which makes it sound like there are false vines in the world. I wonder, if the false vines are those vine-like weeds that wrap themselves around tree branches eventually killing a healthy plant. In our lives we need to take care to pull off those weeds so that we can grow and bear fruit. What might be keeping us from growing? Bad things in our lives may wrap itself around us and hold us back like a tangle of weeds on a tomato plant.
What might those bad things be? Galatians 5:19-21 lists things that are of a sinful nature. In Paul’s list includes discord, jealousy, fits of rage, drunkenness and selfish ambition. These things can cut us off from the true vine which is the love of Jesus. Some of these may seem innocent enough at first but can cause true damage to our branches. For example, our culture places a high value on success such as being the best athlete, very famous, the richest or very powerful. The pressure for success may cause pain for those who get in the way the successful. Those who fail to succeed are often left feeling worthless and unwanted.
This weed of selfish ambition may choke us off from the nourishing love of Jesus the true vine. This false suffocating vine needs to be pulled off and burned so that we the branches who belong to the true vine may grow and flourish with the nourishing love of Jesus. So, put away those fears and thoughts that you are not enough. Jesus loves you for who you are.
What fruits are we called to produce? Paul answers this too in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These fruits are not easy to obtain but need constant tending to produce. We need to pray as a church that we abide with Jesus to grow these fruits. Each day we need to love God and one another in our words and actions. Constant tending and nurture are needed. This work is not easy!
Keeping a garden can be dirty and hard work. It requires time, patience and love. God, the Divine Gardener tends to us as we grow. Jesus encourages us to stay connected to him and through him to one another.
Perhaps this week you may wish to pick one strangling weed that you would like to remove from your life. For example, our country is truly polarized politically. Take time to pray for those with whom you disagree instead of indulging in indignation. Then pick a fruit of the Spirit to cultivate. You may wish to choose kindness and act in kind ways. My prayer is the we all grown into healthy branches that produce marvelous fruit.
God our Divine Gardener, we give you thanks for the strengthen and nourishment which Jesus provides. May we always abide in Jesus and grow to produce good fruit. Help us to remove those choking weeds from our life that keep us from producing good fruit. Help us to produce good fruit in our thoughts and our actions. Forgive us when we fail and help us to grow when we are pruned. Be with those who are hurting and troubled. Be with those who are sick and hungry. Be those who grieve. We lift these prayers in the name of Jesus, the true vine. Amen.
Silent Prayer followed by the Lord’s Prayer
Ahna, Priscilla, Grandpa David, Virginia, Vic, Liz’s sister in law, Butch, Marcie, Anonymous Cancer Patient, Linda, Pat, Laurie Lee, Gail, Brenda, Jeff, Terry, Bev, Mark, Dave, Peggy, youth struggling with mental health issues, Shawn, Lindsey, Sue, Diann, Danna, Janet, Lisa, Joyce, Sara, Cheyenne, Katelyn, Michelle, Dawson, Mary, Priscilla, Tricia, Mildred, and all those who are grieving.
Special Prayers for Khual in Myanamr. Khual is a former student of mine.