Of Vines and Branches
It was a solemn moment. The entire group in the Upper Room with Jesus knew some very big events were about to happen. Fearing the unknown the disciples were frightened, and Thomas expressed for many their doubts and fears.
They celebrated the Passover, commemorating the time God miraculously saved them from the slavery of Egypt. To this day Jews celebrate this meal. They now call it Seder.
In John we have a series of messages from Jesus said in an attempt to prepare them for his death and resurrection, the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and now he is describing for them his intentions for the nature of the church.
They used this as their role model. It is still the role model of what makes the church different from all other institutions.
The first phrase if power packed. “I am the true vine,”. I am is the favorite word used by Judaism to this day to represent God. The phrase means I am existence itself. I create. I destroy. I bring death. I bring life. I am not limited by any other force or direction. I am the very ground of all being. Jesus is clearly saying; “I am God”.
“The true vine”. There are many vines. It is important to select the right one. Back in the thirties, NC was looking for a vine that could control erosion. It brought here from Japan Kudzu. It grew rapidly and controlled erosion, but it also took over. It would wrap itself around a tree and kill it. It would creep up telephone poles cross the wires and the weight of the plant would break power lines, and telephone lines.
This vine is the source of the church. All the branches grow from the vine. That means when the church is being the church it is attached to Christ the source of its direction, power, and strength. We can do nothing for the Lord without this attachment. On the other hand, the very gates of Hell cannot resist the power of the church.
In seminary I nursed a philodendron plant from near death to a large set of vines. I had been tending it for years when my wife and I were going on vacation. I gave its care over to a dear friend while we were gone. When we got back the plant had been severely pruned, back to the nubs. I was horrified. Our friend assured me the plant would grow back stronger than before. It did.
Covid-19 has really pruned our society. Let’s just focus on what this pandemic has done to the church. It closed it for a while. This church lost its pastor because Lutheran Retirement homes could no longer afford to have her full-time. I praise God she got a new job as a Hospice Chaplain, in Newport News Va.
When I started serving here, we had 8 people at worship. Many congregations are still celebrating on Zoom.
For me it has been a time of soul searching of personal identity and in what ways I might serve Christ in the Church. That’s what led me here. I don’t know how long I am the right person, but I trust the Lord will lead us into his future.
I hope this pandemic has helped you do some soul searching over what direction Christ would have for you now. What the future hold for Christianity and the local congregations; I do not know but I believe it is a time of pruning. Whatever is dead or not producing fruit will be thrown in the fire and what remains will be stronger.
Hang on. Christ is the vine. His father is the vinedresser. We are being pruned. I look forward to the new growth Christ will bring as long as we are attached to him. Amen.