I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already cleansed [pruned] because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.– Jesus speaking in John 15:5
What does it mean to remain in Jesus? How can I abide in his love? What does it mean for me to bear fruit? These are some of the questions that arose for me as we considered John 15:1-17 as part of our base group meeting on Capitol Hill last night. I think that answers came differently for all of us. Some felt led to focus on gaining a deeper grounding in the Vine. Others of us have a deep need to be pruned, to have our lives pared down and focused on the core work that God is calling us to. For others, this feels like a season for bearing fruit.
Perhaps for some of us this Scripture just seemed confusing. Jesus uses intense mystical language to talk about his connection with the Father, and with us. At certain points in my life, this almost esoteric language might have seemed disconnected from the everyday matters that I needed to attend to.
Then again, maybe that is the point. If I focus only on the fruit – the tangible goodness that comes from God – I easily forget to stay rooted in Jesus. Ironically, my love for the good things God creates can actually become a barrier between me and the Creator.
How can I keep all my attention on Jesus? How might I develop a practice of moment-by-moment encounter with his Spirit within me? In the deepest part of me, there is a seed, a connection, a doorway where Christ stands and knocks. If I can keep my attention there and invite him in, I will be connected to the Vine. And as his life, power and goodness flow through me, I will bear fruit: Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
Looking to the week ahead, I feel a personal challenge: What does it feel like for me to be connected to the True Vine? How do I stay open to the Spirit that flows through the Vine and into me, this little branch? And what are the unfruitful branches in my life that need to be cut back? How do I need to be pruned so that I can bear the fruit of love and justice?
This week, as I do my work, interact with my community, and share life with friends and family, I want to keep my eyes open to the ways that God is asking me to go deeper. This may mean taking on more responsibilities, or setting aside bad habits that pull me away me from my real purpose. God may need to remove clutter and distractions from my life.
Even more challenging, I may find that I must let go of even some of the good things that I do. Even those activities and attitudes that give me great joy must be laid aside if they get in the way of the person God is calling me to be right now. Am I willing to lay down goodthings in order to be fully present to the bestthing? Am I ready to follow Jesus without reservation?