Sunday, April 29, 2018

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Fifth Sunday of Easter 2018

Jim Marsh, ARCWP, and Margaret Dilgen led the Upper Room Community's liturgy for the fifth Sunday of Easter with the theme: "Cultivating God's Love in Us."

Welcome and Theme: Jim Marsh
Last week, we heard the story of the Good Shepherd; this week we hear
a story about vines and branches. I think there is a common theme that speaks about relationship and being intimately connected to the Divine and each other. Margaret and I suggest our theme today is "Cultivating God's Life in Us." I'm quite sure that all of us have been waiting patiently to see the trees bud after such a cold and snowy winter. New life is beginning to emerge around us and perhaps within us as well. Have you and I noticed the miracle?

Opening Prayer of Peace: by Margaret Dilgen
"Let us close our eyes and breathe deeply in a vineyard. Visualize the vines and branches overflowing with luscious

Smell the aroma of these earthy grapes.
Share this peace of the moment with the person on your right. Send this peace around the circle until it comes back to you.
Let this peace move through you and around you and back to the person on your left returning it back around the circle.
We pray for peace to circle our hearts, our homes and our world. Namaste"

Opening Song: We Come to Your Feast" by Michael Joncas

Reading 1: 1 John 3:18-24

Sisters and brothers, our love must not be simply words or mere talk—it
must be true love, which shows itself in action and truth. This is how we’ll know we belong to the truth; this is how we’ll be confident in God’s presence. And if we have confidence before God, we will receive whatever we ask from God’s hand—because we keep the commandments and do what is pleasing in God’s sight. The commandments are these: that we believe in the name of God’s Own, Jesus the Christ, and that we love one another as we were told to do. Those who keep the commandments live in God and God lives in them. We know that God lives in us by the Spirit given to us.

Gospel: John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Abba is the vine grower who cuts off every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, but prunes the fruitful ones to
increase their yield.
You’ve been pruned already, thanks to the word that I have spoken to you.

Live on in me, as I do in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit of itself apart from the vine,
neither can you bear fruit apart from me.
I am the vine; you are the branches.
Those who live in me and I in them will bear abundant fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Those who don’t live in me are like withered, rejected branches, to be picked up and thrown on the fire and burned.
If you live on in me, and my words live on in you,
ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.
My Abba will be glorified if you bear much fruit and thus prove to be my disciples.

Margaret's Homily Starter:

"Just as a branch cannot bear fruit apart from the vine, neither can we without Jesus.
I love my clippers.  They work very well at pruning. I do get joy cutting off the dead branches, so my bushes will yield more flowers. 
As a follower of Jesus I see myself very much attached to his teachings. Reading spiritual writers contributes to my staying attached. A favorite spiritual writer is Joyce Rupp.  I just finished her book," Walk In A Relaxed Manner." It's her journal writings as she walked the Camino.  She called it Life Lessons from the Camino.  Reading it has helped me continue to walk this road of life with a sense of purpose and direction, holding onto the vine.  
What helps you?

Jim's Homily Conclusion:
Vines need care to produce good grapes: the sunlight, the dew and the
rains, pruning and fertilizers are taken in to nourish and nurture it to produce a good crop. The story tells us that even the branches that are fruitful are pruned by the vine grower to increase their yield. We know that if the grapes are not good, we have no juice, no jelly, no wine. There is a great deal happening (work if your will), some of it seen and some unseen, but all vital.

Allow me to digress and recap a little about winemaking in our own country. Since the time of the first established Spanish Missions in 1769, American Indian, later Mexican, and other "foreign" laborers were responsible for planting and harvesting grapes for winemaking throughout California. Many Californian wineries relied heavily on foreign labor, even during the Prohibition era. In the 1950s and 1960s new technologies and changes in agricultural practices spurred the reliance on Mexican labor to work in the orchards, ranches, and expanding vineyards of California. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, there was a shift from migrant and seasonal labor to more established workers and many Mexican Americans laid down family and community roots to work full time in the vineyards. We should reflect on the history and the legacy of itinerant and migrant field workers and the significant impact they have made in our agricultural and wine industry in the United States, especially with our xenophobia and desire to build walls.

How do you and I bear fruit? Do we need pruning, enrichment, fertilizer to produce even more fruit?

Certainly, we gather as community each week to be nourished by word, sacramental food and each other, much like vines reaching out to each other. But our ritual eating and drinking is not enough. This does not feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, rescue children who are abused and bullied, or women who are sex trafficked, or the many other issues that are polarizing and demeaning to so many in our communities, nation, and world.

Today’s good news is a metaphorical story about life and about the Gracious Mystery we call God who sustains life, not only intimately in us but in the entire, ever-evolving cosmos that we are so intimately connected to. So let us be encouraged to truly love by our actions and yes, even speak boldly when necessary, as Saul did. You and I are co-workers with the Holy One in the vineyard …. and so the miracle continues.

Communion Song: "I Am the Vine" by John Michael Talbot

Closing Blessing Prayer written by Jim Marsh

O Holy One, we thank you for being our vintner and gardener.  As a priestly people we seek to live as Jesus taught. And so my friends, I bless you and send you forth in peace to bear fruit by lifting up the fainthearted, by supporting the weak, and helping the afflicted and vulnerable.  Speak boldly when necessary and always seek what is good for all. May our living and loving be a blessing to us and those we meet this week. May it be so, ever and forever—AMEN.

Closing Song: "We are Called" by David Haas

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