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Posts Tagged ‘the vine and branches’


John 15Pruning – Living in the World

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Written on May 8, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It occurs to me that the only way to be in this world but of it is to be constantly pruned.  We know that when we plant a grape vine it must be severely cut back each year in order that it bear fruit; otherwise it would run rampant and throw its energy into producing stem and leaves.  With the constant cycle of bearing and pruning, the fruit remains abundant and nutritive.  This is the course of discipleship: the pruning keeps us close to the main vine, Jesus.  If we were left to ramble on our own – as some people choose to do – we would be all flourish and show, lacking depth of root and wealth of produce.

This is why we ought not to be afraid of the cutting back that God does with us, the bringing up short, the changing of plan, the leaping into what looks like nothing – for this is what faith calls us to do.  This is why we ought to rejoice in all circumstances, be they joyful or sorrow-laden.  It is why we ought to expect to be shown a new path just when we think we have discovered something that is rock solid.

We are not meant to languish and roam where we will.  We are creatures created with a purpose.  And that purpose is buried deeply within, to be drawn out by the source of our being.  We can only be truly happy, truly celebrate with a sense of lasting joy when we find ourselves being pruned . . . so that we better hear, we better listen, we better do.

God sacrifices self for us.  We must sacrifice self for God.  This is what goodness does.  This is how goodness behaves.  Living in a world which is self-driven, we will find ourselves at odds with this idea of giving over to the pruning.  We need to expect to be misunderstood, miss-read, miss-heard, miss-believed.  If we are People of the Vine, waiting in joy for our winter pruning so that we might better burgeon in the spring . . . we gladly give over our small worries and pains to the one who prunes us – because he does so with great knowing, great skill, and great love.

When we are being pruned, we know that we are chosen and appointed to go and bear fruit that will remain.  We are called to enact the Law of Love.  We are called to be Fruit of the Vine.


A re-post from September 14, 2011.

Image from: http://pavdevelopment.com/grape/pruning/Pruning-Grape-Vines:-Art-of-Less-is-More

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Psalm 80: Prayer for a Persecuted People

Friday, March 24, 2017

Restore us, O LORD of hosts; let your face shine upon us, and we will be saved.

Persecution often follows us when we answer God’s call to act as God’s disciples, when we carry truth to people who do not want to see it. When we witness to an injustice, we want to rely on God’s wisdom, strengthen our resolve with Scripture – a manifestation of Christ among us, and rest in prayer with the Spirit.

Several years ago when I struggled with a particularly challenging set of circumstances, I left the student dining hall to go to my classroom where I might find some quiet. I had to prepare a report I knew would displease our leaders in that it spoke to a truth they did not want to hear. In the hush of that noontime, I flipped open the Bible that always lies near my desk and the pages fell open to Psalm 80, a prayer for those living through persecution. Had I come across an immediate answer to my prayer?

The opening lines call for help and restoration, and are followed by an image of the vine brought out of Egypt, an allegory familiar to the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea and Micah. Jesus uses this symbolic tale to describe his relationship with us: he is the vine, we are the branches (John 15:1-17). He sustains and nourishes; we are the fruit of Christ’s labor and love in us.

Anyone familiar with vineyard work knows that each winter the vines are cut back drastically in order that the plant become stronger and the fruit more dense and fine. Father Richard Veras writes that our hearts are encrusted and that Jesus must break through that crust in order to soften our hearts. “This crust is a barrier between him and the heart, and he will never respect or politely tolerate any such barriers”. Veras uses the examples of the Samaritan Woman at the well and Pontius Pilate to make his point. “The Samaritan woman’s barrier was doubt that true love and friendship could exist. Pilate’s barrier was power and position”. Jesus prunes their hearts and gives them the opportunity to do what is right. They have the option to choose.

And so do we. Each day. In every encounter with each person we encounter. DO we withdraw to hide within a structure of deceit and authority, or do we call for help and pruning? DO we turn away from the Creator, Savior, and Keeper, or do we ask for redemption?

Restore us, O LORD of hosts; let your face shine upon us, and we will be saved.

If we spend time with this psalm today, we might find our own prayer for the times when we are persecuted in Christ’s name.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 13, 2007.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.13 (2007). Print.  

 

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Job 7Suffering Without End

Monday, August 29, 2016grapevines

A Favorite written on August 27, 2009

This is what we humans try to avoid at all cost – suffering without end – and yet this is impossible for us.  We will only experience true joy that lasts when we learn to allow suffering to transform us – and this is what I was thinking as I drove through Long Green Valley this morning on my way to work.  The heavy mist curled through the vineyards at our local winery, nourishing the grapes which are promised for the fall.  The vines are well tended, all reaching out to support one another – having been pruned back to little more than stumps last winter.  Interlocked, these branches reinforce one another, anticipating the heavy crop to come.  The workers go through their strict cycle of pruning and flourishing; the plants burgeon, wither and burgeon again, answering their maker’s call to yield fruit that will sustain.  I was imagining myself as a branch of God’s vines just as Christ tells us in John 15: I am the true vine, and my Father is the true grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whosoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. 

This chapter in Job is followed by ones in which people who call themselves his friends urge him to confess his sins so that he might enjoy God’s grace once again.  Job will repeat often in this story that he is innocent – and he is.  His acquaintances will continue to berate him.  He will continue to trust in God.  And in the end . . . he will be restored.

We often feel as though we are suffering without end . . . and we are.  Yet, this suffering brings about abundant fruit which we will not have to struggle to produce.  This suffering carries within itself the seeds of restoration.  This suffering is not to be avoided for when it is, we avoid the opportunity to be touched, and held and cured by the master grower’s hands.  And this is something we do not want to miss.

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Matthew 7:21-23: True Discipleshipdisciple

May 8, 2015

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven . . .

We so often call of God when we are troubled and we too seldom include God in our celebrations of good news. We say that we know God and want to do God’s will and yet we too often believe that God has abandoned us.

God says: My true disciples sees me in all those who suffer or are alone or abandoned. My true disciples rejoice in their sorrow as often as they rejoice in their celebrations. In the downward spirals of your life you cling to me, and in this I rejoice for I am the vine that sustains the branches of your life. Remember me as well in the beautiful upswings and your days of celebration for I am also there – although you may forget me. My true disciple remains in me as much as possible just as I remain in them always. In your days of woe you remember me. Remember me as well in your days of joy.

To better understand Jesus’ concept of a true disciple, use the scripture link to examine varying versions of his Vine and Branches discourse (John 15:1-8).

For more Noontime reflections on true disciples, enter the word discipleship into the blog search bar and explore.

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John: Naming OurselvesMislabeling-the-Word-of-God

March 28, 2015

In beautiful prose, the writer of John’s Gospel gives us many portals to name Christ, to understand the person of Jesus, and to model ourselves after this Word of God Among Us.  On this eve of Palm Sunday, as we prepare to enter the holiest of weeks in the liturgical calendar, let us take time to assess who Jesus is, how we convey to the world our own understanding of God in the person of Jesus, and how we intend to change in order that we become more like this saving servant.

Chapter 1: Word of God and Light of the World – What does it mean to be the Word of God? Do we enact God’s mercy and justice in our actions and words? How might we bring light to the world’s darkness? Do we look for hope, bring peace, and heal others?

Chapter 3: Spirit of God – God grants us eternal life. What do we store up for this eternity? Where does our treasure lie? Do we offer life or death to ourselves and others?

Chapters 4 – 9: Healer and Miracle Worker – How do we become the hands and feet of Christ? When do we allow God to work many small miracles for and through us? How often do we witness to injustice? When and why do we heal ourselves and others?

good shepherdChapter 10: The Good Shepherd: We have the prophets’ cry out against false shepherd and teachers. Do we number among them? Do we listen for the voice of Jesus the Shepherd? Do we put aside the world to follow the one true shepherd? When do we call others to follow in Christ’s Way?

Chapters 11-12: Restorer of Life – We cannot raise Lazarus from the dead but we can restore wounded hearts, ask and grant forgiveness, bridge gaps and mend fences. We are capable of bringing hope to the hopeless, mercy to the marginalized and love to the abandoned and brutalized. When and where do we grant these gifts we have been given by God?

Chapters 13 – 14: Advocate – It is easy to look away from problems and slip into denial. Who are our loved ones, associates, colleagues and friends? Do they call us to good or encourage us to hide in darkness?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChapters 15 – 17: Vine for our Branches – God gives us the choice to be life-takers or life-givers. What path do we choose and why? Are we willing to change course once we see that we need to change? Do we offer to God the apology saying that we are content in our comfort zone? Do we inflict discomfort on others or call them gently? What nourishment do we allow God to bring us and how do we pass this sacred sustenance along?

Chapters 18 – 20: Lamb of God – Humility is such a difficult quality to wear in our status and power-driven world and yet it is essential. Do we strive for the meekness that Jesus displays? Do we give more than we receive? What role does pride play in our lives? How do we handle our own sense of entitlement and that of others?

Chapter 21: Resurrection – There are no words to express the beauty of God’s desire to bring us to eternal happiness in the kingdom. What fidelity to do we show to the Gospel story in our actions and words? What narrative of resurrection do we live out? What promise of resurrection to we believe? And how do we witness to the miracles of resurrection we know God performs constantly in our own lives and in the lives of others?

empty tomb with sheet and lightWe are perhaps too accustomed to these images and if this is so, we must spend quiet time with them today. If we celebrate and enact these metaphors in our lives daily then let us rejoice in the Good News that is so familiar. In either case, let us spend time with these names and call ourselves followers of Christ as today we prepare for the Palm Sunday gift of Jesus as the very name of God.

Tomorrow, Christ in Us.

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3.3-1_Goodall_The_BrideSaturday

January 24, 2015

Joy and Union

John

We are invited into a disciple’s intimacy with Christ. Jesus offers friendship that is personal, immediate and joyful. Today we remember that Christ is the groom and that we are his bride. And we consider how God’s incredible love calls and binds us together.

John the Baptizer recognizes that his joy increases when he finds union with others in and through Christ.

1-3-rebecca_at_wellThe Bride and Groom John 3:25-30: There arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.

Jesus tells us that the union we seek with him – the union we already have if we might recognize it – is the sole source of lasting and satisfying joy.

grapes71The Vine and the Branches – John 15:11: These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Jesus reminds us that his joy is complete in us and that as we turn over the cares of the world to him our joy will increase. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches; he sustains and we celebrate and bear fruit. Our pruning strengthens us and brings us closer to God. Our fidelity and persistence bring us the reward of God’s genuine and enduring joy.

This is the Good News John brings us. Today we might consider how we will share this joy with others.

Click on the image of the bride above to learn more about women in ancient times, or visit: http://www.womeninthebible.net/3.2.Major_Events.htm

joyIf this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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fruit_of_vineMonday, September 29, 2014

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Seen and Unseen

If only we might remember Paul’s words when we are overwhelmed. If only we might trust in God’s plan for us.

We are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

If only we might recall that we are all souls that join in Christ’s body and that Christ is the vine while we are the branches. If only we might join God in outrageous hope by asking for the impossible.

For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen . . .

If only we might take a moment to pause and relax rather than launch into reaction before thinking. If only we might allow God’s wisdom to settle into our bones.

For what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.

If only we might hold on to the promise God places before us that redemption is eternal, that hope is infinite, and that God’s love knows no bounds. If only we might be open to God’s amazing grace.

Much of Jeremiah’s audience looked for all that was seen while only a few loyal followers saw the eternal meaning in God’s words as delivered by this prophet. Today we have the choice clearly before us. If only we might share with God all that is unseen each day in our lives.  If only . . .

Enter the words 2 Corinthians in the blog search bar to see what else St. Paul might tell us about what is seen and unseen.

Compare several versions of this citation by clicking on the scripture link above, or choose other versions from the drop down menus on the scripture site . . . and listen for God’s word to us that has previously gone unheard.

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