Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 99; 147:12-20, Joshua 1:1-9, Hebrews 11:32-12:2, John 15:1-16
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.
– John 15:5
This passage from John beautifully illustrates our relationship with Christ; he is central not only to our beliefs, but to our very lives. Separated from Christ, we wither and die. The passage goes on to describe branches that wither and are burned, and branches that thrive and bear fruit. Yes the vine is central, but this metaphor also reminds us of the importance of Christian community. After all, when’s the last time you saw a healthy vine with only one branch?
It’s no coincidence that Jesus immediately follows the image of the vine and branches with a commandment for the disciples to love one another so much that they would lay down their lives for each other. Branches are interdependent; the health of each one positively or negatively impacting the health of the others. Apart from community, we are like single branches trying to survive on our own: it’s possible, but the fruit we bear will probably be sparse and limited, that is if we care bear any at all before collapsing under our own weight or drying out from overexposure to the elements. A community of many branches anchored together in Christ provides the support and shelter to bear good fruit.
Our reading from John is paired with a passage from Hebrews that refers to a “cloud of witnesses” who fought, won, suffered, and died for their faith so that future generations would see God’s promise fulfilled. A grapevine can take up to three years to produce grapes, but those years without fruit are not without purpose. Roots must grow deep and the plant must mature. Older branches are pruned so the vine may thrive. By participating in the lifecycle of a community we contribute not only to its present health, but help provide for the health of future branches.
Let us work toward the health of all branches, supporting each other and bearing the sweetest fruits together.
Comfort: We are not alone.
Challenge: Think about whether you are a positive or negative influence on your own spiritual community.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the many branches and witnesses who have made your church possible. Amen.
Discussion: What kind of community do you prefer? For example, blending into a large congregation, being part of small groups, online groups, mission teams, etc.
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