Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fruitful Together

About 5 years ago my family and I traveled to the small village of Rio Pardinho in southern Brazil. We stayed with a family that I had lived with back in the 1980s when I was on my internship prior to becoming a pastor.

In the backyard of their home was a trellis enveloped with an amazingly fruitful grapevine. I have a wonderfully vivid memory of picking and eating grapes in the shade of that vine. The shade was good because it was January--a very hot time of year.

"I am the vine," says Jesus, "you are the branches." "...Apart from me," he continues, "you can do nothing." "Those who abide in me...", that is, those who stay connected to the vine, "bear much fruit."

That's true even though, from our personal point of view, there seems to be no rhyme or reason or orderliness to the vine at all. It grows this way and that way, and even when provided with a trellis, it's very hard sometimes to figure out which branch connects to what.

And that's okay. After all, as it says in John 15, the "Father" (that is, God) is the gardener. As I read the scriptures, God the Father is the one who takes care of pruning. It may seem disorganized to us, but I really believe it's God's job to bring everything to fruition--not ours.

Here in the Dassel-Cokato area there are a multiplicity of people and groups are working for good causes. Even the cemetery is coming to life -- see Victory Garden. But, this causes some uneasiness and disagreements as a whole variety of people get involved, each with their gifts and personalities. Two times yesterday there were a few raised voices among adults dedicated to the Christian development of DC youth. But that is to be expected. Grapevines and Christian relationships are often a seemingly uncoordinated jumble of people who seem to be at cross-purposes with one another. But, like a grapevine, they are growing into something that will produce abundant fruit.

This morning the pastors got together again for prayer. On my way back from the North Crow Lutheran Church--it was a beautiful morning!--I heard an MPR radio program on the topic What Are Economists Good For? I was thinking about the Christian community as I heard University of Minnesota professor Varadarajan V. Chari talk about the way the free market works. It also seems to be chaotic. But, as I think is true in the church, if it's all controlled too much from the top, it doesn't function very well. There needs to be freedom, and in that freedom, fruitfulness can occur.

The key, in terms of God's work in the world, is making sure we're all connected to the "true vine," that is, to Jesus Christ. When we gather regularly to hear God's Word and share in the Lord's Supper, we find ourselves being reminded of God's costly forgiving love and the tremendous price God paid for us on the cross. When we are continually connected to that vine--to that source, to the cross of Christ, we will recognize each other as brother and sister sinners, saved by grace, and we'll never be surprised if there are challenges in our relationships along the way.

Unlike branches of a grapevine, we have free will and we can choose to cut ourselves off from one another when those challenges come. But when we are continually reminded of God's grace, we will be more patient, more loving, and the fruit, which would otherwise be lost, will multiply over and over again.

Hope to see you in church!

No comments:

Post a Comment