Friday, May 04, 2012

This Week’s Focus: Connections

 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  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. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. John 15: 1-8

Dear Friends,

There’s an old expression that: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You need the right connections to get ahead. In this week’s gospel Jesus assures us that we’ve got the right connections. We’re not on our own. We’re connected. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. He abides in us, and we in him.

“Abide” is such a lovely, arcane word. It conveys a sense of timeless commitment. It says that we not only live in the Lord, but we have a long-term, iron-clad lease.  Jesus is not the flavor of the month. He’s here to stay. And we are bound together so tightly, that in time it becomes hard to tell vine from branch. Our every thought reflects his will. Our every action serves his purpose.

We know that’s where we ought to be. It’s where we want to be. But how do we get there? To begin with, Jesus has done the hard work. He took our every sin with him to the cross. In him we are redeemed. But our state of redemption is not a passive one. In scripture we have learned that our salvation is a gift from God. We did not earn it. We cannot pay for it. But just as often Jesus tells us that we must partner in his work. We must witness his love. With redemption comes obligation.

Our first obligation is to know God. It is the prerequisite to loving him, to praising him, to serving him. And like any other task we take seriously, knowing God begins with the basics. It starts with reading, studying and meditating on the Bible. And that takes time, commitment and discipline. That investment in knowing the Lord leads inexorably to abiding in the Lord … an intimate and sustaining presence, a serene sense of “connectedness” with the will and the work of Jesus.

Our connection with Christ was never meant to be a nodding acquaintance on holidays. In the starkest terms possible, Jesus tells us our connection comes with an obligation to be fruitful. At times being fruitful can seem such an impossible stretch. We feel so spiritually needy. Our faith can be so frail. But we are not on our own. That is the beauty of being a branch. Over time we draw health and vigor from the vine. With the turn of each season, the fruits of grace and Christian sanctity swell within us, ‘til they burst forth to the glory of God … in worship and fellowship, in service and stewardship, in love and in joy. And so we pray: I am yours, Lord. Abide in me. Nourish me. Make me fruitful in your service.

God love you!

You sent you Son into the world
that we might live through him.
May we abide in his risen life
So that we may bear the fruit of love for one another
and know the fullness of joy. Amen.

Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission. A complete edition of the prayers is available though Augsburg Fortress

True Vine, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved April 30, 2012].

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