Our Gospel is taken from the long “Farewell Discourse” (John 14-17) where Jesus addresses his disciples at length immediately before his arrest and execution
In the midst of this rich and at times difficult passage we have an extended metaphor where Jesus says “I am the True Vine” – one of the seven “I am” sayings in John to be found in John (Quiz question- what are the others? – see http://wp.me/p1mP9D-73)
“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.” – John 15:1
So what is going on here? What is Jesus saying about himself, his relationship with God and with us?
God is the gardener – he creates the garden which fosters life (Like the Garden of Eden)
Jesus is the plant – rooted in the garden – tended by the gardener
We are the branches coming off the main stem
We have life from him (“Remain in me as I also remain in you”) and we bear fruit
What is this fruit? It is love. John equates remaining in Jesus with remaining in Jesus’s love
“Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
If we do not bear fruit – if we do not love – then the consequences are dire – we will be pruned away – “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
And love is the essence of life – it is its source and its purpose
If you think about it that is absolutely right to the point of being obvious – we are born out of love and we are fulfilled through love which itself then begets others
As in nature – love is both the seed and the fruit – we plant seeds (say an apple or a grape seed) and they grow and bear fruit themselves love begets love
So the fruitfulness, the fulfilment of our lives comes from our relationship with God through Christ as demonstrated in our love of one another
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. This is my command, says Jesus – Love one another. “
So as we think about that for the moment – whom do we love, how do we show that love – are we sowing the seeds of love in our lives – are we bearing fruit or are we consigning ourselves to the fire?
While we think about that let us act out this metaphor and bear witness to the love which we receive and can pass on in turn
(At this point four green ribbons are attached to a central cross and threaded through the hands of the entire congregation – 2 strands going Eastward through the Choir, 2 starnds running westward to the congregation in the nave).
Meditations on the Vine
The Vine is rooted in the cross
As we string these tendrils through the congregation, we see that our vine / our faith is rooted in the life and death of Jesus Christ, his ministry and witness.
At the centre of this is the cross on which he died
It symbolises the suffering of Christ – the love of Christ – those of us who have lived a little know how suffering and love are connected – anyone who has cared for a child – anyone who has cared for an animal – knows how love is about putting yourself out for others – love is suffering, or at least love entails suffering.
Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross is the greatest possible symbol of this suffering love.
“Greater Love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friends”
But our cross is an empty cross – the suffering is now over and only the love remains – the spirit and energy of Christ rising above and beyond death to preside over life – the seed has germinated and taken root in us.
The branches of the vine link all Christians
As we string these tendrils, we see that our vine links us all together
Jesus love is communicated through us as Christians
As we love each other so we bring that love to the world
There is no exclusivity – the message of his love is available to all
As we heard in the passage from Acts: “The Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised (i.e. Jewish believers) who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
It is our mission as Christians to spread that love, to bring it to all. We have received love and we must in turn pass it on
The branches of the vine are many and varied
As we string these tendrils, we see that they are going in different directions from the one source
In the same way Christianity has spread in different directions and denominations
Coptic – Orthodox – Catholic- Protestant (northern Europe) – Anglicans, Methodists, Quakers, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Calvinist …
We are part of that tradition – part of a tradition that began with Peter as described in acts – moved through the Catholic Church to this country – then developed through the reformation – through the Bible of 1611 through the Prayer Book of 1662 – through the revised Prayer Book of 1928, the ASB and now our book of Common Worship
We give thanks for that tradition – the suffering and sacrifice of those through whom it has been passed to us
The vine gives meaning and structure to our lives
We think of Christ’s commandment that we “remain” in him as he remains in us – in the King James version the translation was better – “abide in me as I abide in you”
Abide – meaning to rest or remain – as we find ourselves fixed in Christ – we know our place and ourselves through the stability of this relationship
Abide meaning to live – so we live our lives rich, fulfilled and fruitful as we live our lives in Christ
We are responsible for where the vine leads
We hold one hand on the vine and we have one hand free to reach out to another person – to pass on the love which we have received – to pass on the tradition (Latin – trado – meaning I hand over)
We think of all those who are known to us who would benefit from that love
We think of our mission as a church and as people
(Taken from a all-age service lead by Chris Hancock at St. Mary’s, Headley on 13th May, 2012)