Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio


Text: John 15:1-11

        Psalm 133

      It occurs to me that what we consider one of the greatest advancements of human civilization

may, in time, be regarded as one of human civilization’s greatest ironies, and greatest pitfalls.  We

live in an era in which the technology of internet, cyberspace, social media have made communi-

cation and exchange of information lightning fast; widespread, bridging every nation on earth; as

if we’re in one another’s living rooms.  What comes forth from my mouth (or from my fingers) can

be in the ear (or on the screen) of anyone on earth within seconds.  That quickly, I can spread a

good word, or a word that’s not so good.  This is a technology which was only a dream in the

minds of NASA scientists a few generations ago.  Now it’s a reality in the hands of just about

every man, woman and child on this globe. 

      I must be getting old as it seems like only yesterday, in order to speak to someone on the

telephone, I had no choice but to sit in a chair within reach of the receiver tethered to the base of the

phone by a coiled cord; that base attached by another cord to a little box affixed to the baseboard;

that little box connected to yet another cord which went out to the telephone pole.  When I was in

my early teens, someone thought up the ingenious idea of making that coiled cord several times

longer so I could actually go to my room and close the door while talking.  Such phones still exist,

but mostly in offices and churches.  I suspect they’ll be as rare as phone booths before long.

      Today, of course, our mobile devices make it possible to talk to anyone, anywhere, from any-

where, at any time. [I still have a thing about talking to people on my cell when I’m in the bath-

room, well, you know]  If we’d rather not talk, we can text, or e-mail, or message, or tweet, or snap

chat,or instagram from that same device.  Walk around anywhere and observe people of all ages

tapping away at the screen in communication with people the town, the country, the world over.

How did we once get along without?  It seems back in the old days, we were so disconnected.

      Not so long ago, if we needed to do research, we would go to the librarian, and ask in hushed

tones:  “Where can I find information about communication technology?”  She or he would leaf

through index-sized cards lined up in long, thin drawers; then refer us to a particular stack and the

numbered book, periodical, or encyclopedia where we could look up what we needed to know.

      Today’s massive information highway has not only made books, periodicals, and sets of

encyclopedias available with a few simple taps on the screen, but I’m afraid may someday render

libraries places of preservation and yearning more than places of exploration and learning.  How

did we ever access information without the net?  We were so disconnected then.

      This rapidly-growing capacity to communicate; to gather and share information at lightning

speed; to instantly engage in business and commerce is reshaping our ways of interacting and

relating to others in virtually every area of life.  The irony, however, is that with all these modern

methods of connecting, it seems we’ve managed to somehow become more disconnected than

ever before; disconnected where it really counts - person to person and heart to heart; discon-

nected from each other; disconnected from our families; disconnected from our communities; at a

deep level, disconnected from our very selves; increasingly disconnected in a spiritual way from

the very Source of life.  Perhaps symptomatic of this disconnection is a breakdown in our culture;

its growing mean-spiritedness; angry and divisive rhetoric; lack of civility; online bullying perpe-

trated under the shroud of anonymity; acts of violence on a scale exceeding even the tumultuous

1960’s.  Along with this has come widespread hopelessness, despair; despondency; disintegration

of family and community structures and values

      This harsh context in which we live as Christians makes Jesus’ teaching about connectedness

all the more urgent and profound for this generation. Part of Jesus’ instruction, as well as His

intercessory prayers on the night of His last supper with the disciples, had to do with being and

remaining connected;  primarily to God the Father through Jesus; then to Jesus through the vast

network of believers; then person to person and heart to heart within what Paul calls “the body of


      Jesus used the metaphor of vineyard which would have been very familiar to the disciples, and

to the earliest hearers of His gospel.  He first refers to God the Father as the “vine-grower.”  If we

were to put that in terms of modern communication we are familiar with, God is the Source of the

signal; the ISP or Internet service provider.  Jesus refers to Himself as the “true vine.”  Might we

understand Jesus as the signal itself, in its best and clearest bandwidth, sent forth or broadcast to

everyone with a functioning receiver, be it coaxially, fiber optically, or Wi-fi connected.  All those

who receive the signal (ie. the message from the broadcast source) are likened unto “branches.” 

Now, those who “bear no fruit” -- those who either do not heed the message they hear broadcast,

or don’t even bother to listen -- are like branches which eventually wither and die for lack of use. 

While those who do “bear fruit” are “pruned” in order to bear more.  Continuing to stretch our

two-tier metaphor, we might note that the root of the Greek verb katharai used twice in this pas-

sage and translated “pruned,” can also be translated “cleansed” or “purified.”  So, through  

remaining connected to the “true vine” is the message – the broadcast signal – made increasingly

clean and clear by its Source; even to the point that it comes to have greater influence and effect

in the life of the one listening.  And what is this message being broadcast from Source, to signal, to

receiver; this life giving nourishment which flows from “vine-grower” to “true vine” to “branch?” 

Jesus makes the message crystal in verse 9:  “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you;

abide in my love.”  Love, you see, is what keeps us genuinely connected, even in the milieu of a

society and culture in which people seem to have become so disconnected.  Especially to disciples

of this era, or of any era, Jesus is strongly urging us to remain closely bound in the bond of love. 

Later in the same discourse, Jesus offers up a final prayer for His disciples of every age.  And that is

a prayer for unity; for oneness; for connectedness.

      If we take this message to heart, there are symptoms of disconnectedness we should never

permit to dwell in the body of Christ: mean spiritedness; angry and divisive rhetoric; lack of civility.

These have no home among us, for these are marks of people who are disconnected – from God;

from themselves; from each other. We are called to be a connected people – person to person,

heart to heart.

      The sacrament we share on this World Communion Sunday serves as a powerful reminder of

God’s sacrifice for us through Christ.  It signals God’s immeasurable love, and seals our own

forgiveness in that love.  Just as importantly, communion at the Lord’s Table serves as a living,

breathing testimony to our connectedness as Christian disciples; presently connected to one

another in the ligature and nexus of divine love; historically-connected to Jesus and the first

disciples who sat at table with Him, and to all disciples who have preserved the institution of this

sacrament for two millennia.  As the body of Christ, amidst all the advancements of human

civilization, let us ever remain so.

Heavenly Father, times change, but You do not.  Your love is as constant,

as pure, as available as it’s ever been.  May we attune ourselves to the clear signal

of Your grace, and remain connected to one another through the crystal message

of Your love.  All this we pray in the name of Jesus, through whom we are one.  Amen.