Vine and Branches

“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.

Scripture Reading
John 15:1-8 (NRSVUE)

How do we, as a church, fulfill our triple mission?

(Keeping our church a safe space. Proclaim the radically inclusive love of God for all people. Participating in the wider work of justice and peace.)

To answer this question, I want to take the metaphor of Jesus as the vine and us as the branches, and apply it on a few different levels.

Background of vine imagery: In my research on this, I learned from that the symbolism of a vine, as in a grape vine, was often associated with Israel. Israel was a vine which God planted and tended. This was written during a time when Christianity was splitting from Judaism, becoming its own thing.

As a church, we are a branch of Christianity. If we are to bear the fruit of the vine that is Jesus, we can’t lose our connection to Jesus’ teachings and commandments. We need to remain in Jesus as Jesus remains in us. Let us not think that we can’t go the road that many other branches of Christianity have, of becoming disconnected from anything Jesus taught or commanded.

And what’s the greatest commandment?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and mind. And the second greatest commandment is this: love your neighbor as yourself.

Later in this chapter, in verse 12, Jesus says:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

What does it mean to lay your life down for your friends? At this church, we don’t believe dying was Jesus’ objective from the start. Martyrdom was a risk he accepted. Empire killed Jesus.

Here’s how I interpret laying down one’s life for one’s friends. And loving your neighbor as yourself.

We are connected. My freedom is bound up in your freedom. There is no liberation for some of us without liberation for all of us. We need to see other people’s and other sectors’ struggles as things which affect us. Greater love is when we so invest in another’s wellbeing, that we take on some of the risk, some of the pain, in order to liberate them.

Even as, and especially as we fight oppression, as we deal with persecution as queer people, we cannot forget love.

Sometimes, it’s a really hard ask. When we see people who seem determined to not love us.

And also, we may find it difficult to love the people closest to us. There have been and will be times in this church, when we struggle to show love to one another.

Fortunately, it’s not all on us. Jesus is the source of radically inclusive love.

If we abide in Jesus, we will bear much fruit. The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And God will prune us, so we bear even more fruit. Trim away the parts of us which aren’t beneficial to us. Don’t be afraid of this process. Be open to change.

The holy spirit transforms us.

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