John 15:1-6 (NRSV)
“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…”
In my younger days I tended to focus on the “withering” and “thrown in the fire” part of this familiar passage, which was daunting. I really didn’t want to think about anyone being thrown in the fire like a pruned, withered branch in a garden. But now I focus on the strong theme of connection in this passage. I am not a plant out in the garden alone fighting for some share of water and sunlight – I am cared for by the Vinegrower, and exist as a branch from the strong vine, Jesus. I am connected to the source of all life, and to you, because you are a branch too. We are all part of a wide Christian community vine, and importantly, part of the branch that includes Lewinsville Presbyterian Church. Jesus uses so many ways to try to help us understand God – God as the shepherd, the Father, the Mother, Light, Love, and here, the Vinegrower.
After this year of isolation, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be connected to a community. As a person who is frequently labeled “reserved,” I could easily continue in my pandemic isolation long past what Covid-19 demands. But this passage from John reminds me that I am not supposed to be out here on my own – I am a branch on a much larger vine. I need to be part of our community, so that I can abide in him as he abides in me – and in you.
Dear Vinegrower, thank you for caring for the branches that form our community. Please help us to “bear fruit” in your spirit, and to come back together after this pandemic in a way that strengthens us and helps us to welcome others to our community. We want to abide in you, and are grateful that you abide in us. Amen.