Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believe     Mark 9:23

For without Me, you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

We, especially in western culture, are all about processes and progressions.  In life we go from newborns to toddlers, adolescence to adults, middle age to retirement age (often called our golden years).  In education we start as freshmen and graduate as seniors.  There is a definite corporate ladder for us to climb.  In sports we start as a rookie or novice and end up journeyman, an all-star, an all (state, American, pro).  We tend to find some security in the idea that the more time we spend, the more effort, the more we learn, that there is a greater outcome.  I believe we also think that we become more powerful as the progression continues and even perhaps freer.  We gain the right through the progress to do more of what we want; we feel that there is an entitlement, a basic fairness to the idea that we can do more as the process progresses than we could at first.

Sadly, that can enter our faith life as well.  We can fall into a trap of progression that can lead to our own sense of entitlement as well as a sense of judgement about others.  Through the Spirit we come to a place of revelation where we proclaim Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Savior and the one true Son of God.  Then the progression starts.  Well let’s see, I should think about how often I pray, maybe get on a prayer regimen like my exercise regimen.  I guess I need to purchase a bible and start reading it.  I should find a church and start attending.  These first few Sundays I’ll give five dollars but eventually build up more. At some point I guess I’ll need to start telling others about Jesus and get them to come to my church.  Sometimes in churches there is a sense of progression that brings about power and influence.  You have your attenders, then your enrolled members, then those who volunteer, then those who serve on committee’s then those who lead committee’s then perhaps paid staff.  All a progression.

Jesus told a parable about that.  In the 20th chapter of Matthew Jesus tells of the men hired throughout the day.  Some worked all day, some worked just an hour.  Yet they all got paid the same amount.  That outcome threatens are basic belief in what is fair.  We would judge, not only the landowner as wrong for paying the same, but we might make a judgement about those later workers in even accepting the wage.  We are entitled due to the progression of the day!  They are not!

My dear friends, please don’t misread my intent.  There is great value in reading the God’s word.  Church is a wonderful place to go to.  Freely and joyfully giving back to God a portion of the bounty which He has so richly blessed us with is a good and right thing to do.  Volunteering can bring about such blessings to both those who receive and those who give.  I have received so many blessings being in church positions and serving in church government.  But none of that entitles me or means that I “can” do anything.  I am not freer to use my own earthly judgement, not calling upon God for insight and wisdom.  At the end of most of our earthly progressions we get to the point where we pridefully say:  “I’ve made it; Look at me; Follow me; I am worthy!”

Jesus is clear.  There is no progression past Jesus.  In John he uses the illustration of a vine and branches.  If we want to accomplish anything, we must be a branch attached to Jesus Christ the vine.  Christ makes no distinction about the length or age of the branch.  Indeed he mentions that fruitful branches will be pruned, to be cut back.  Sure seems that might put a dent in my progression.  Christ tells us, we will accomplish nothing apart from Him.  We can’t, no matter how rich, powerful, learned, beautiful, old, be successful unless we belong to Him.  So how do we do that?  BELIEVE.  Have true faith.  Believing that Jesus Christ is the Holy Son of God, the Vine from Heaven, and longing to be a branch growing from Him, allows the ability where I can do anything.  Picture it, the vine does not withhold things from its branches.  No, the vine nourishes the branches supplying them with every need for their life and growth.  What is flowing into us, the branches, from Jesus Christ the Vine?  Love.  Our Heavenly Father’s Love, Jesus Christ’s Love.  The Holy Spirit nourishes our spirit with that Love and then, and only then, we can and will bear fruit.

So it is not about some formula or process, some set of steps of progress that brings about what we can and can’t do.  But do understand this.  There is a progression that matters.  There were steps that made all the difference in the world.  It is the progression of Jesus Christ to Calvary.  The steps our Savior took to the cross.  The Love that brought Him to earth to die for our sins and to raise Him back to heaven.  I truly hope that is something we can all believe in.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that we often try to find ways to work towards You.  That we use earthly standards of progression and achievement to feel that we are worthy of Your Love and Acceptance.  That we are justified when we judge others whom we feel have not progressed as far or spent as much time as we have.  Forgive us Dear Father.  Through the Holy Spirit show us the meaning of Your Grace and Mercy that we come to You only through the sacrifice of Your Precious Son, Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Strengthen our belief that we can go out into the world as branches of the True Vine, Jesus Christ, and spread Your Healing, Loving Gospel.  Keep us from the temptation of trying to go it alone.  That all whom we may meet will see the fruits of our belief and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name we pray.  In the name of Jesus Christ.