All good which is going to bear any fruit begins in the Lord,
and unless it comes from Him, it is not good.
(see Arcana Coelestia 9259:4)
As branches, what is our goal? There are leaves and flowers on the branches of a vine or a tree, but it is the fruit that completes its productive cycle. As the branches are to bear fruit, so we are to be useful. It is not enough to talk about truth or have good loves. We must combine them in the performance of use, the doing of good works.
READ: "The Vine and the Branches," a sermon by the Rt. Rev. Louis B. King
FAMILY WORSHIP: Abide in Me (ages 6-up)
Read the Lord's words in John 15:4-12. See the suggestions for exploring the meaning of the words "Abide in Me, and I in you." It might be helpful to print a color picture of a grapevine or find a vine to bring indoors- preferably one that is fruitful and not poisonous.
Discussion Ideas Include
- Looking at John 15:4, what do the words "Abide in Me, and I in you" mean? How can we abide in the Lord? Literally, this means to reside or remain in the Lord. To abide in the Lord - to let the Lord draw near us - we must look to Him, obey His commandments, serve Him by serving others, and acknowledge that He is the only source of all that is good and true.
- In verse 5, how does abiding in the Lord make it possible for us to bear fruit? Look at an actual vine or a picture of a grapevine, and identify which parts are meant by "the vine" and its "branches." The vine supports all the branches and gives them life by carrying food and nutrients to them. And it is the Lord who gives us life and inspires us to bear fruit - to do good things for other people.
- What is the opposite of abiding in the Lord? (See verse 6). Look at what happens to the branch when it is no longer connected to the vine.
- Notice how many times the phrases "abide in Me" or "abide in My love" are repeated in John 15:4-12.
POSTER: I Am the Vine (ages 10-up)
Download and print this beautiful poster with words from John 15: 4-5.
PROJECT: I Am the Vine (all ages)
Make a picture of the Lord as the Vine. Children may want to draw a branch for each member of the family while teens and adults may choose to draw a branch that represents their life, showing the fruit it is bringing forth. (See I Am the Vine project description for further ideas.)
SING: "You Are the Vine" by Lori Odhner
PROJECT: Unless We Acknowledge the Lord (ages 11-up)
When we acknowledge the Lord as the source of good and truth with us, we can bear good fruit as branches of the Vine. But what if we know about the Lord, but don't acknowledge Him? Then we are like a wild animal, a bird of the night, a sea monster, a tree cut up, or the ruins of a burned city. Fold a piece of paper in half. On one half, make a picture of the Lord as the Vine and people as the branches, bearing the fruit of useful activities. On the other half, show what people are like when they do not acknowledge the Lord.
ACTIVITY: Being Alerted by the Lord
How are we inspired to do kind things for family, friends, and neighbors? All good loves come from the Lord, so we know that He is the source of our inspiration. However, the Lord cherishes our freedom, and we are generally unaware of His influence on our lives. Yet we have this beautiful teaching about the Lord alerting us to help others: "[W]hen people who are perceptive have feelings of compassion, they know that they are being alerted by the Lord to offer help" (Arcana Coelestia 6737).
- Reflect on a time when the Lord may have alerting you to help someone or inspired someone to help you.
- Discuss times when it seems that the Lord must have inspired someone to help other people. Look for examples in fiction, television, and film as well as in real life. This is a wonderful illustration of the way the Lord provides for us. How does this benefit the person being
helped and the person offering help?
- Write about a time when you had a strong feeling that you should help someone. If you can�t think of a specific instance, try writing a fictional story with this theme.
COLORING PAGE: He Who Abides in Me...Bears Much Fruit
SING: This Is My Father's World
Charity is an inward affection for doing what is true
and performing uses for their own sake.
(see Last Judgment 39:11-12)
Charity is used in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Church to describe a way of life that expresses love for the neighbor. This goes far beyond giving to the poor and other activities that we may typically associate with the word "charity."
READ: "Works of Charity," a sermon by the Rt. Rev. Thomas Kline
PROJECT: Planted by the Waters (ages 8-12)
Look at a photo of grapevines in California. Do you see the black irrigation hose just below the vine? Grapevines and fruit trees all need water to grow, just as we need truth. Then illustrate this beautiful quotation from Jeremiah 17:7-9: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord...for he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river..." If you can, go look at some trees that are growing by a river, stream, or pond. Can you observe any of the roots seeking the water? When you illustrate this passage from the Word, show the roots spread outward and the tree going upward toward the sun.
ACTIVITY: Blue Celery and Green Carnations (preschool and up)
Try these simple experiments to make white carnations turn green and celery turn blue. This illustrates the way the Lord made plants so that they can take in water. Like the plants, we can drink water. In the Word, clear water is a symbol for truth. Unlike plants, we can take in truths and put them to use!
PROJECT: Garden vs. Desert (for ages 12 and up)
A person is like a garden when charity and faith in the Lord are linked in him. But if these are not linked, a person resembles a desert. It takes time for us to grow into beautiful gardens, but this should be our goal. Make a picture of a lush garden on one side of a piece of paper and a desert on the other. You may want to brainstorm examples of attitudes that would make a person like a garden and others that would make a person like a desert.
ACTIVITY: Our Part and the Lord's Part (teens and up)
If all good is from the Lord, does that mean that we can sit quietly and wait for the Lord to produce uses in our lives? Or like the gardener in the parable of the fig tree, do we need to "dig around" our good intentions and fertilize them? (Luke 13:6-9). Producing good fruit requires action from both the Lord and us. This activity invites you to explore one aspect of your life that you would like to cultivate, looking for weeds or negative attitudes that may be keeping it from growing.
READ: "Blossoming from the Lord" by the Rev. Frederick Chapin
When we perform acts that agree with the Lords teachings in the Word, the Lord will guide them and be in them. The uses we perform from the Lords love will contain Divine power to provide comfort to the broken-hearted, direction to the confused, and support for the weak.
A life of charity is a life of uses.
(Arcana Coelestia 997)
The fruit of charity is all the good that we do as we go about our lives each day.
READ: "Bearing Good Fruit," a family talk by the Rev. Donald Rose
READ: "The Vine and the Branches," a sermon by the Rev. Daniel W. Goodenough
To produce real good, we must be organically united with the Lord Jesus Christ. The fruits or good works that we, as branches, produce are really brought forth by the Lord working in us. It is our faith in the Lord united, with a life of love, that produces good works like fruit from branches. Good works that are done from ourselves (with no acknowledgment that the Lord is the source of all that is good and true) are not intrinsically good, even if they benefit other people. The Lord asks that we recognize Him as the Doer of all good and believe that there is no good except from Him. For we are motivated by loves that come to us from Him, as life from the vine.
ACTIVITY: Treasure Hunt (ages 4-7)
Make a treasure hunt for your children to follow, starting at the place where you keep the Lord's Word. Use green yarn or string to make a pathway around furniture and into other rooms. At the other end, have a bowl of grapes. Discuss how the truths of the Word, such as the Golden Rule, can lead to good fruit.
ACTIVITY: Fruit of the Vine (ages 3-7)
- Sample grapes and some products made from grapes (jelly, juice, raisins, fruit salad, etc.)
- Make lots of grapes (actually beads that look like grapes) using Sculpey or Fimo. You may want to make green, blue, and purple grapes to have a variety. (If these are formed around a straw, it will be easy for children to string them later.) Put all the grapes in box, ready to use. Whenever a child does a good deed, let him add one grape to a length of green string or cord (knotted at one end). Each child can be working on his own string of grapes or help make one big string to place by the family or classroom worship center.
ACTIVITY: Compare the Bramble with a Fruitful Vine (ages 4-10)
Go on a nature walk to see a prickly vine and compare it with a vine (such as a grape vine) that is without thorns and bears edible fruit. Or gather samples to help with comparing them. Read Luke 6:43-44 ("For a good tree does not bear bad fruit....") and discuss what it means. Why can't a bad tree or bad person bear good fruit? Such a person can act in ways that benefit other people, but unless he looks to the Lord it is not genuine or good fruit. (Note: Bramble bushes which give good fruit, like raspberries, do not seem to be what is meant here.)
COLORING PAGE: You WIll Know Them by Their Fruits
ACTIVITY: Family Outreach
Talk about something that you can do as a family that will help other people. Perhaps you could work together to make a meal for a family with a new baby. Or rake leaves for an elderly neighbor. You are sure to come up with an idea if you think about your friends and extended family, the people in your neighborhood, your local school, your church, etc. Afterwards, reflect on the happiness you gave and received through your acts of charity and how both are really from the Lord.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The Life of Faith (teens and adults)
SING: Lord, Thou Art My Portion