“I am the Vine, You are the Branches…”

John 15:1-8

I pulled my dad’s old garden shovel out of the shed yesterday.

I needed to spread some new dirt around in my garden beds as I start to think about planting for another season.

And I thought to myself about how something as simple as an old shovel whose handle has been worn smooth by decades of use ties me to him and his love of and care for the garden he planted every year without fail. And of how by September there was so much fruit: tomatoes and cucumbers and zucchini and on and on: plenty to can and freeze and more than enough left over to give away. And of how he would put all those tomatoes into buckets and take them to church for everyone to enjoy.

He always marveled at the richness of the soil — so different from the rocky ground which was more typical of the landscape of his home.  I do not recall him ever adding anything to it: just breaking up the soil and dropping the plants or the seeds into it.  Surely he spent many an evening with a hoe, keeping weeds at bay, and yes there were seasons when it needed to be watered, but mostly those plants just did what they were made to do.

These are the images which come to mind today as I hear today’s word from John. Indeed, these are joined by a thousand others in this part of the world which in late April greets spring where the world is greening up and flowers and trees are in bloom and where farmers are yearning to get into the fields and backyard gardeners are preparing to plant. We know to the core of who we are the truth of Jesus’ words for us today, that when the branch becomes disconnected it ‘withers’ and finds its only worth now as firewood. And yes, there are whole sermons to be preached on all that we must do so that we might continue to ‘abide,’ to stay connected that we might be nurtured and bear the fruit that is ours to bear. Even so, today I find myself wondering if this truly all begins and ends with only this:

Jesus is the vine and we are (already and always) the branches.

  • We didn’t make this to be so in the first place and maybe if we, if I, just somehow can accept the truth and the gift of this, the rest will all simply be as it is meant to be.
  • Because, there is something really passive about the ‘branch.’
  • And yet in all that ‘passivity,’ branches do what they were made to do: They receive life and they give it.  And then they do it again.
  • Indeed, no actual branch, on its own, would dream of disconnecting from the vine, if it were even able to do so.

And yet, of course, the metaphor breaks down here for human beings are not branches, not really.

  • Unlike a ‘branch,’ we sometimes have a tendency to to think we are smarter than or more capable of knowing what’s best for us and so we do cut ourselves off from the source of life itself. Not just once, perhaps, but also, sometimes, many times, even many times a day.
  • Unlike a ‘branch,’ from time to time we think we are called to bear a different sort of fruit than what we were meant to bear.
  • Totally unlike a ‘branch,’ we forget the gift and the power of ‘the vine’ into which we were born, from which we were made, in the first place. Without which we are really nothing at all. Or at least not anything like what we were created to be and do.

And so with all of you today, I am simply standing still and seeking to receive the gift of Jesus’ words for us now. Indeed, in doing this and only this, perhaps I can begin to come nearer to being who God intends me to be, bearing the fruit I was made to bear.

I am wondering what it is to ‘abide,’ to stay near, and in so doing to even more fully receive the gift of life itself, meant for all of us the same, but uniquely each one as well.

I am anticipating the truth that in so doing, fruit has been borne and will be borne in you and in me and in all of us together: no doubt a harvest even more abundant than all those tomatoes my dad would plant and harvest every September.

And I am wondering now if I, if we would best be able to take in the truth of all of this by stepping out into the world where God’s good creation witnesses to this wonder over and over again. I am grateful to say that this is easy enough for me to do. It is right outside my window.

May God give you the same. May you know the truth of Jesus’ words today in your own backyard, or in a nearby space, or yes, in the person you sit across from now: the gifts of abiding, of staying close, of receiving the gifts which are meant to be received, and of bearing the fruit each one is meant to bear.

May this blessing be yours.

  • Are you able to hear Jesus’ words today as promise and gift? How do you see yourself as a branch on the vine? The community or congregation where you live and serve?
  • Branches are passive. People, not so much. How is it that we can even better receive the gift of life and fruitfulness that is meant for us in Jesus’ teaching now?
  • As you look out into the world today, where do you see the truth of what Jesus teaches? As you wonder about your own life experience, how do these words ring true for you?