Sermon: I Am The Vine You Are The Branches, Claudio Carvalhaes #PYT13

Dear Friends,

Please see below the sermon I preached at Presbyterian Youth Triennium, July 20, 2013. In many ways it will frustrated you! that is because the sermon alone, here, cold, just won’t do it what id did. It is only the breath of the entire experience that can really get to what it really was and to the ways it happened. Along with the words, it was the mask and the cape, the t-shirt and the rope of light attached to buy feet, the many movements, the trowing of the pages, the intensity of the preaching, the beating of my heart, my enormous love for the youth, my faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ,  the technology, the engagement of the youth, their sounds and responses, the singing, the lights, the band, the whole crew who were behind the scenes, and the whole energy. Only when we consider all these things that one can actually get the sermon and get to a point where one can understand why it is causing all of this responses. Below you will see small parts of the sermon recorded and edited by a good friend who posted online. But the whole video will be available by #PYT13 soon. As you read,  pray for me and I pray for you, so God can fix myself and perhaps you too!


Ways to interact with me:

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Rev. Cláudio Carvalhaes


* I haven’t been able to place the video here so you could watch pin this page. To see an almost 15 minutes of parts of the sermon please go here:


I Am The Vine You Are The Branches

Scripture:  John 15:5-12  (I am the vine, you are the branches)


After the Bible reading, Jorge leads everybody in singing just this part of Cold Play song:


Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you


I enter with my hood on, turning my back to the people…


Who Am I?

I am Trayvon Martin, I am 17 years old

The one who went to buy skitties and ice tea but didn’t make back home because somebody was afraid of the color of my skin and shot me dead.

Who is gonna be there for me, with me, all the way?


Who Am I?

I am the poor, the one nobody cares, the one who used to live on food stamps, but now even the food stamps are gone, because our politicians voted to stop it. How do people eat now? How do they feed their kids?

I am the one who hasn’t been called by name.

Who is gonna be there for me, with me, all the way?


Who Am I?

I am black, I am Hispanic, I am Asian, I am a muslin, I am gay, I am foreigner,

I am the diversity I wonder if you really want in your church

I am the neighbor everyone is uncomfortable with

Who is gonna be there for me, with me, all the way?


Who Am I?

I am the one whose body is out of proportion,

I am not one of the smart ones in my school

I am often afraid, and I don’t have no friends

Who is gonna be there for me, with me, all the way?


Who Am I?

I am you, a mirror of yourself, one whose life depends on you

What are you going to do with me

Are you gonna be there for me, with me, all the way?


Are you ready to look at me? Are you?


Taking off the hood

Buenos dias! How are you all doing? I am so glad to be here this morning. I really am. I’ve been wondering who Am I? And wondering who do you think I am? Can I call you my brother and my sister even if you don’t know who I am or look like a loco foreigner, strange and creepy?


Well, I am a variety of things but this morning, I am a lucha libre wrestler! Have you seen me at The New York Times? Find me there. I fight against injustice! I believe with Martin Luther King Jr. that: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” So, if you are living under some kind of injustice, I will be there for you! I will fight your battle! Because I am a lucha libre wrestler! If you are going through tough times I will be there for you, with you, all the way! I will go flying (try to fly). Well if I can’t fly I will run and will be there for you! Who here is in need of my help? Raise your hand.

go to the person who raised his/her hand and ask name and say (name) and say: I am here for you, with you, all the way.


Let me tell you this: this is how I’ve been thinking of Jesus lately. The one who will be there for us, with us, all the way! He is the one who will fight for us. And with us. All the way. Like a lucha libre wrestler! Jesus will fight any battle to see us happy. And Jesus will prepare us for the struggles of life and empowers us to get through the toughest things in life. Jesus is the one who prepares us to be each others’ helpers in the struggles of our lives!

As a lucha libre wrestler, I fight real and symbolic battles, My struggles are around injustice and the ways in which the love of God is blocked from people’s lives. People are calling me el poderoso diablo azul, the one who will mess up with the real devil, who will fight “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil;” (Ephesians 6:12) against anyone who creates walls around people, and keep patrolling the borders of human connection, impeding joy between strangers, mutual empowerment and those who dismiss the poor.


My weapons are not and will never be real guns! I am vested with the armor of God and the gospel of peace. My shield is my faith, my helmet, the salvation in the revolutionary gospel of Jesus Christ, and the sword of the Spirit is the word of God.

My weapons are made of love and flowers, peace and fruits, revolutionary movements and golden bridges, masks, capes and grassroots organizations, a heart filled with passion for Jesus, dressed up in disguised outfits. A violent-non-violent fighter who wants to make an impact with the power of love. In this endeavor, I am the struggles I engage, I am the people I give my love, my money, my time, my commitment. This morning I am with you, and I am going to fight for you, with you, all the way! This is who I am… today.

But now, who do you say you are?


Has this Triennium been good to you? You have been here for a while now right? Are you having the best of times? Great people, great food, great fun, great worship, great music! Triennium is the coolest thing isn’t it?


But today is the last day… so sad… But tell me “who you are…” after this time here. Tell me “who you are” based on what you learned about Jesus here during these days.




During this week you have learned about Jesus who said: I am! I am the bread of life, I am the good Sheppard, I am the tree of life. Have you noticed that everything Jesus says about himself has to do with life, “life abundant?” What is it about this Jesus that he is always offering us life? He is not offering a way to feel good only, or give us what we want, but offering life as potency, as a power that can change things. In our text today Jesus says “I am the vine you are the branches.


The Biblical Text go on Screen – John 15:5-12 / I will read verse 1: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”


Do you see the relation Jesus makes with branches and the tree here? Why is that? Have you seen any branch that detached from the tree give fruit or flower? And why not? Because alone, without being connected, it withers and die. What Jesus is saying here is that the key of life is to be connected!


Life happens when we are connected, first with Jesus and than with one another. If we are connected in Jesus, life will always be abundant! Even if life will not be totally happy or not the way we hoped for. Life abundant has to do with this: if I got Jesus and if I got you, I am good, I am ready to go. And we can change the world! Together! As Lucha Libre Wrestler for Jesus!


Our deepest connectivity is in Jesus and one another. Going to church, hanging out with friends and family, house or connecting through internet, cell phone, facebook, twitter, instagram and so on, we need to keep connected. Internet and technology are to help us improve this bodily connectivity not to replace it! To follow Jesus is about incarnation, rubbing each other’s shoulders, looking at each other’s eyes, holding each other’s hands. That is what you are doing here!


Without you I die alone and cold in front of my computer. Without you my hands go cold, my heart loses its warmth, my whole life gets disconnected. Without you I ain’t nobody! But with you, ahh, everything changes and I feel strong and alive! And I can fly! REPEAT TO EACH OTHER…

Jesus sets up the example: Jesus lived and hung out in two communities: first the community of the trinity where he belonged. Jesus is part of a family called trinity: God the creator, the one who lives in the waters, in the wind, in the fire, in the earth and in the animals; Jesus the redeemer, the one who walks with us and call us his own; and the Holy Spirit the sustainer, who lives in our breathing, who wakes us up every morning. There is where he belongs. But more! When Jesus is walking among us, he also lived amidst a community of friends, whom he loved and was loved dearly. It was in the midst of these communities that Jesus learned who he was! These two main communities, the trinity and his Palestinian crowd, embraced him with love and care and gave him the desire to go venture into other communities and places to make more friends. At the end, Jesus had several communities of friends from various places, classes, ethnicities and social backgrounds.


Imagine if Jesus did not have a deep sense of who he was when he was threatened by death. During his life he was dismissed, betrayed, taken as a prisoner, ridiculed, made fun of and killed brutally and mercilessly. When he was given to the authorities and put on the cross, he lost all his connectivity. His friends and family run away and even God withdraw from him. And he died. The whole system of injustice of that time worked hard to separate him from his sources of life.


Nonetheless, in order to go through all of that he needed to know who he was. And Jesus knew who he was because God told him “You are my beloved son in whom I am so pleased.” Those words were written on the walls of his heart. And also, his community of friends loved him deeply and for a long while, he was constantly assured of their love for him.


Being connected with the trinity and with his family and friends were the reasons that he was able to go through that horrific death, in spite of all of the injustices. He knew that the deepest part of himself was deeply marked, embraced and connected in the love of God. He knew that he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do what he needed to do. And this love was such that it was that love that made him resurrected! Yes, it was the love of God and the love of his friends that made him live again.

For love resurrects the dead and establish systems of justice so that others don’t need to die!  How so? Remember Trayvon Martin, he was another victim of our unjust and racist society. He didn’t need to die. As Christians, we must create communities of love and connectivity so we cast away the fear and anger that is so present in our society.  If your church is a community of love, your church will resurrect all of the suffering, the destitute, and all those around who are marginalized from society and connect them with sources of life. Through our mutual love and witness we will resurrect Trayvon Martin and the many others who didn’t need to die! His memory will help us change this society!


Like Jesus, the systems of injustice and sin disconnects us from God and one another. Sometimes we feel alone, like a motherless child away from home… Sometimes the whole world collapses and we feel abandoned and without connections. Sometimes the system takes away our very possibility to continue to live. But if we are truly hooked up and connected to Jesus, the tree of life and to one another, we can face the threats of life! We will be able to go buy skittles and ice tea and get back home safe! And this love will resurrect us and we will be back to life every time death threatens us.


But here is another side of this. If you are connected into Jesus tree, you will not only receive such life but you will have to give life as well. To be wired into the tree of Jesus, you will have to bear some responsibilities.  If we are to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will have to wrestle with many things! So perhaps God is also calling you to today be a lucha libre wrestler in order to fight the good fight of life! Do you want to join me?


Together, we will fight without guns, but with a gospel of peace and love. We will dream together a new and possible world, a world we haven’t seen yet. See, the whole thing about being a lucha libre wrestler comes out of this connectivity with Jesus. It is only when we are connected to Jesus the tree of life and to one another that we can be a lucha libre wrester of this gospel. So, here are some things for you to remember in this struggle:


First, don’t lose your connectivity with the tree! You must develop your spiritual life. You must read your Bible everyday! And I mean it: everyday! There is no way to stay connected to the vine if you don’t read the Bible.


Also, you need to pray and have a disciplined life of prayer. Pray 3-5 times a day, pray when you wake up, pray at every meal, pray before something special you need to do, pray before you go to bed. Pray for you, for your family, for your friends, for the least of these. There is no way to stay connected to the vine if you don’t talk to the tree!


The last thing regarding your spiritual life: be part as many Lord’s Supper/communion/Eucharist you can. If your church does not have the Communion often, go to another Christian denomination. But do drink the wine/grape juice of the vine you are deeply rooted into.


Second, (TOUCHING THE SOIL) don’t lose your connectivity with the earth. Everyday, find some soil, rub it in your hands and remember that you come from there. We must use the common good, water, food, land, oil, and so on, for the good of all and not for some. The earth belongs to God and all of us not only few agribusiness companies around the globe! God’s soil belongs to all of us and this common connectivity is what makes us alive. You are responsible to protect the earth from being abused, overused, depleted and destroyed. Touch the soil every day and fight for its protection.


Third, the life you receive from Jesus makes you responsible for the politics of this country. Get involved with politics, with grassroots organizations and fight the good fight. Just recently, the congress abolished food stamps and a massive number of people will go hungry. There are people in the congress and in the economic market who don’t care about the poor and they want to use everybody’s resources just for them. That is why we have 2% of the population having more money than the 98% of the population of the entire country. Is this right? Under Jesus name, no one will be rich but no one will be poor either! Go into politics and fight for the poor, for the homeless, for the hungry, for the sick, for the blame, for the destitute. Go to the congress! Press the congress about their votes! Pay attention to people and systems not experts! What people are doing in Turkey, in Brazil and here in the Occupy Movement, go join them! Don’t look for experts or individuals to save the world. Only communities can change the world! Join grassroots communities, poor people’s communities and learn from them! And here is a rule of tomb: Always listen to the poor and never to the rich!

Four, get involved in mission, local and international. Our church has a fantastic wealth of sources that can help you get involved in mission. Look for these resources.  For instance, look for the Presbyterian Hunger Program, they have different activities and hands-on programs, some of those focused on hunger and food. Get involved! We must think and act critically about hunger and poverty both in the US and overseas. And mission also means spreading the word of God. Go around the block shamelessly telling everybody that Jesus is the tree of life and if we are connected with him, we will have nothing less than abundant life. Evangelize, spread this love brothers and sisters, make it viral!


RIGHT NOW, SEND A TWEET saying: God loves you or Jesus is the best thing that happened to my life, or whatever you want!

Lastly, let me tell you other things:

ONE) DREAM! Dream about a new future for you and our world. DREAM! Don’t get stuck with what you see! Envision something else, envision a new world, we need new visions, new prophecies, new tongues, new dreams.


TWO) Be resilient! The key thing in life is not to be strong but resilient! Don‘t accept this culture of high achievements that don’t allow you to be overqualified for everything! Go make mistakes, lots of mistakes! Learn with them! And let me tell you: you are allowed to fail. Than, come back and again and continue to press on! This is resilience! Take risks! Don’t focus and don’t let your church keep talking about safety! We don’t live in a safe world!


THREE) Go back to your to your churches and create a new church! Practice a new church for Christ’s sake! Pull all of your resources, connect them with your friends, embrace your tradition and invent new things, a new tradition. Create programs, get connected with other denominations, other religious faiths, and find ways to be subversive. Everybody who invented something did it because they went into another direction. Go to another direction. Don’t let people tell you that you need to go this way! Disobey some and invent something new! Create from what you have, make connections everywhere!




But let me issue a warning. People are going to come after you. And they will try to take away your dignity, say you cannot do anything, that you are a loser and that you worth nothing!  They will also say that as youth they don’t understand the real world. Or that they should leave the “big issues” to the adults in the room. Don’t let this happen! keep going and live as if God is saying all the time to you: You are a branch in my tree!  You are worthy! You are precious! You are My beloved child!


When the world says you are worthless, you will respond: I am a branch in Jesus Tree! I am worthy! I am precious! I am God’s beloved child!


When you hear people say you ain’t nobody, and try to put you down, you will respond: I am a branch in Jesus Tree! I am worthy! I am precious! I am God’s beloved child!


When you feel alone and seems nobody hears your cry you will go to your mirror and you will say to yourself: I am a branch in Jesus Tree! I am worthy! I am precious! I am God’s beloved child!


When you don’t trust yourself anymore, you must remember that God trusts in you! And God will tell you: You are a branch in My tree! You are worthy! You are precious! You are My beloved child!

Who are you? Tell me! I am a branch in Jesus tree! I am God’s beloved child! I am precious!

Cold play song starts and Lights go down at the audience


I say: Sometimes we lose the energy in life….


I call 3 youth on stage –the sound of the music continues very softly




Dear ______ And the people of God says: You belong to us! We love you! You are a branch in Jesus three like all of us! You are worthy! You are precious! You are God’s beloved child!


* We will do this 3 times


When we finish, Cold Play song gets pumped up – the whole arena goes dark


I say: Turn on your cell phone, and let it on as lights. Let us wave them now…


The band continues to play this part until the end of the sermon




Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you

Let us sing!


LIGHS COME BACK – The Band continues to play this part.


I will take off my mask, I want to have that on screen so kids can see it happening.

I am still a lucha libre wrestler but I don’t need to wear any mask because you love me. We are connected. At the end of the day, we can hang out together wearing whatever we have. Eve if we don’t agree with one another, we will hang out together. What matters is that we are fighting each other’s battle. Do you want to be a lucha libra wrestler?

We will live together! And along life we will fix each other’s paths!

By the grace of God and Grace of God alone, we will try our best to fix each other path, when the world hurts and damages the best of us!

We will provide God’s love to each other!

We will flight for a better world!

We will fight to rescue each other…


So to finish, let us stand and respond: Who Are We?




We are God’s children

Wonderfully and fearfully made by the hands of God

We are the ones who have been waiting for God’s grace so we can fix each other

Who is gonna be there for me?

God will be there for us! With us! All the way!


Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you







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