I John 4:7-21

John 15:1-8

Practice Radical Religion

April 29, 2018

Easter 5 

The Lord has risen! Alleluia! He has risen indeed!

            What a glorious, life changing, community changing, world changing truth this is! Yes, this is a glorious truth, but it is a truth that has to be lived out in the way we live our lives.  We need to let the risen Christ make a difference in our hearts and lives and the way we live our lives, “finish the story of the resurrection”, so to speak, for people to believe that Christ has truly risen and that lives, the community, and the world can truly be changed by the power of the risen Christ.

            Our scripture passages for today from the first Epistle of John and the Gospel of John tell about the difference the risen Christ can make in our lives, the community, and the world.  In the 1 John passage John explains the life changing power of the risen Christ, and how we can live that out as we love each other and love others,  and in the John passage Jesus tells us that if we want to bear fruit for Him we have to be rooted in Him.

The Lord has risen! Alleluia! He has risen indeed!

            What difference does it make in your life that Christ has risen? What has changed in your life because you believe in Christ who died for your sins yet rose again from the dead and offers you new life, a different way to live, a different way to feel about yourself — a different way to relate to others, and a different way to relate to God? 

            The life changing, community changing, world changing Good News of Easter is that Christ has risen and everything can be changed.  You can have a life-changing relationship with Christ, you can let Christ change your life in radical ways, and then you can go into the world and work for Christ’s will, changing the world in radical ways with the strength He gives you.

            One person who had a radical, life-changing relationship with the risen Christ — then worked to change the world in radical ways with the love of Christ was Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  Mother Teresa was a nun who, until her death several years ago, spent most of her life ministering to the needs of the poor, the sick, and the dying in Calcutta, India.  She began each day with an hour of prayer before going into the hospitals she and her Order, the Sisters of Charity, operated.  She insisted that what she was doing was not social work but stated: “I’m simply trying to bring people closer to God. If I really love God and if I really love others I cannot say: ‘I love you’ and do nothing. I have to conduct my life in actions of love.” Mother Teresa indeed had a radical, life-changing relationship with Christ and worked to change the world in radical ways with the love of Christ.  She was a radical person, a person with a radical love for God and others, a person of radical love and radical actions. 

How has the risen Christ changed you? How has it changed your life? How has it changed the world through you?

            Our Gospel and Epistle lessons for today speak of the radical, powerful, life-changing love of God that is unleashed by the resurrection of Christ and continues in the world by the people of God, people who develop a radical, life-changing relationship with God and then show the great, radical love of God to the world through radical actions of love and compassion. This is the type of radical love and radical life that was lived out by Mother Teresa.

            Our Gospel and Epistle lessons for today call into question the shape of our lives as Christians and the message we proclaim to the world, individually and as a Church, in light of the radically powerful event of Easter. These two lessons give a radically new dimension to our lives as Christians, a new dimension to the meaning of the resurrection of Christ for each of us, for the church, and for the world. 

            What is it about the life in Christ that the Gospel and Epistle lessons are trying to communicate? What is it that Mother Teresa understood and lived and that you can understand and live?

            In the Gospel lesson for today Jesus is speaking to His disciples the night before His crucifixion. He is giving them some final instructions on how to truly follow Him.

            And what does He say?

            First — Abide in Him and second — Bear fruit.

            He uses the familiar illustration of the vine and the branches to show the special relationship that should exist between Himself and His disciples. 

            Of course, the disciples had seen farmers prune branches and burn dead branches.  They were familiar with that process. But what, they must have asked themselves, does that have to do with them? What did Christ mean when He said He is the vine and they are the branches, and to abide in Him or be gathered and burned?

            It must have been very confusing for them.

            Abide in Christ. What does that mean? What Jesus is talking about here is a radical life, a radical life that is changed by the love of God, a radical life where you show love for others.  It is a radical love for God and others that changes your life in a radical way. 

            What Jesus is talking about here is no less than your purpose as Christians, the purpose for your prayers, and the purpose for our life.  The purpose of your spirituality, the purpose of your connection with God, your prayers, your reading and meditating on Scripture, is to let God radically change you so that you can be about God’s radical change in the world. Jesus is saying that your spiritual life, the life of prayer, the life of abiding in Him, puts you in touch with Him so you can bear fruit and so that you can show Him to the world. Abiding in Christ means having your life nourished by a radical relationship with Christ and then taking the radical love of Christ into the world. 

            That’s what Mother Teresa understood and lived every day.      That’s the secret to the Christian life that you and that we all need to understand and live every day.

            I call this radical religion. Religion that is rooted in Christ and bears fruit for Christ. I take this term “radical religion ” from the Latin root for the word “radical”  — that word being radix, which means to be rooted.  We get our name for the root vegetable “radish” from this some root word. What I mean by radical religion is being rooted in Christ, the vine, so that you can have your life changed by Christ and bear fruit for Christ in the world. You can practice radial religion.  We all can practice radical religion.

            You can be a radical Christian.  You can be rooted in Christ and strengthened by Christ, and then share the life changing love of the risen Christ with the world.

            The event of Easter, the new life you can have because of God’s great love — can change the purpose of your life.  You can practice radical religion and be a radical Christian. You can be rooted in Christ and can bear fruit for Christ in the world.            

            As a Church we can practice radical religion. We can be a radical church that is rooted in Christ and bearing fruit for Christ in the world. We can be radical Christians practicing radial religion.

            I have some questions for you:

            What is your purpose? As an individual Christian — what is your purpose?

            What is our purpose as a church?

            Our Epistle lesson from I John says, in no uncertain terms, that our purpose is to share the love of Christ with the world. The only way to do this is to practice radical religion. We have to abide in Christ, to be radically rooted in Christ, to receive strength  nourishment and renewal from a personal relationship with Christ and a corporate life of Worship, prayer, Bible study and Christian action.  As individuals and as a Church we have to have an individual and a corporate life that is truly radical and truly rooted in Christ, truly strengthened by Christ, and truly changed by Christ. s an individual you  have to have a life that takes the time for a radically rooted relationship with Christ and that takes time for that personal relationship with Christ that comes through prayer and study on a daily basis and bears fruit by sharing God’s love with the world. Then, we have to come together as a Church, a community of radically rooted Christians who commit ourselves to worship, to Sunday School, to Bible Study, to fellowship times, to times of outreach, to our youth ministry and to all the things God calls us to be doing so we as a group of radically rooted Christians practicing radical religion can bear fruit in the world.

            These things, and no other things, are to be our priorities as individual Christians  and as a Church.  Our purpose in life is to practice radical religion, to be a radical Christians, rooted in Christ and bearing fruit for Christ.  Our purpose as a Church is to be a radical Church, a Church that practices radical religion, rooted in Christ and bearing fruit for Christ.

            You need to practice radical religion.  We all need to practice radical relision.

            I heard a story that illustrates this need for the strength we receive from a radical, rooted relationship with Christ. It seems that this man was interested in buying a new saw.  He went to the store and told the owner he wanted the very best saw he had.  The owner showed him a saw that he guaranteed would cut 8 cords of wood in a day’s time. The man looked at the price tag, and although he thought it was a little expensive, decided that if it would really cut 8 cords of wood a day, it would be well worth it. He bought it and the next day he got up early, eager to use his new saw.  But it was all he could do to cut ½ a cord  of wood. He wondered how it could cut 8 cords, but figured he was probably just out of shape and out of practice sawing.           So, he went to bed early that night and the next day he got up, eager to try his new saw again.  But it was all he could do that day to cut ¾ of a  cord of wood.  He really began to wonder what was going on, but decided he would give it one more day. The third day he went out, but could only cut less than a cord f wood.  He decided that something was terribly wrong. This saw was supposed to cut 8 cor ds of wood but all he could cut was ½, ¾ and 1 cord. He took the saw back to the store and demanded his money back.  The owner took the saw to see what was wrong, turned on the switch and pulled the cord, and, of course, the saw cranked right up. “What’s that noise?” the man demanded. “I’ve never heard that before!” Just as the man wasn’t using the power for the saw, too many times we don’t use the power of Christ, the power of a radically rooted relationship with Christ, to be the individual Christians and the church God calls us to be. As individual Christians, we are to be practicing radical religion and we are to be radically rooted in Christ, having a relationship with Christ that empowers us for the new life the risen Christ leads into living.  As a Church, we are to be practicing radical religion and be radically rooted in Christ, doing the things that empower us to as individuals and as a group of Christians for the new life the risen Lord leads us into living. 

            Practice radical religion. Be a radical Christian.    Abide in Christ. Be rooted in Christ and bear fruit for Christ in the world.           

            Ask yourself ; “How are Jesus and I doing — right now?”

            How is your relationship with Christ? Are you radically rooted in Christ, using the power of Christ you experience in prayer and in study of scripture to help you live your life in God’s ways?

How are you and Jesus getting along — right now? Are you united to the vine,  to Christ, so you can bear fruit in the world — or are you about to be cut off because you’ve lost touch with the vine and the power and strength it gives?

            Practice radical religion. Be a radical Christian. Be rooted in Christ and bear fruit for Christ in the world.

            As a Church, let’s practice radical religion. Let’s be a radical Church, committed to Worship, Sunday School, Bible Study, fellowship times, times of outreach, and all the things God calls us to do.  Let’s practice radical religion, and bear fruit for Christ in the world. 

            Let’s practice radical religion! Amen