Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Vine

"I am the true vine," says Jesus, "and my Father is the vinedresser … As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me… As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."

At our Thursday morning pastors’ prayer meeting the Lord gave us those words from John 15.  I've been mulling them over, praying about them, thinking about them, and relating them to my life, and our life as a church.

So a bit ago I wrote this on facebook:
"Is Jesus the vine or just the trunk of the vine in John 15? I ask because many believers have little respect for the vine as a whole, composed, as it is, of many branches. I'm not too familiar with grapevines, but, as I look at them, it's hard to say what is a branch and what is 'the vine.' It seems to me that every branch actually becomes part of the vine and thereby, as members of Christ himself, the relationships in the body/vine/church become holy too, and not just one's personal one-on-one relationship with Jesus. Can you comment?"
Jon Zens replied:
"It seems that there is both the reality of distinctness (He is the source) and an intense, mysterious unity (where does the Vine end and the branch begin?) The NT views our relationship with Christ primarily in terms of a joined-together body, not in an individualistic way. The beauty of this body is that the uniqueness of each part can fully function in an environment of deep interdependence."
And I wrote back:
"Sadly, in the clergy centered church world that most of us have known, individual believers don't value their relationships with one another as much as God wants them to, or they value them in a sentimental way that doesn't connect with God's truth. I think (and I might be wrong about this) that Jesus spoke of the vine partly BECAUSE most of a grapevine looks like a tangled mass of branches and leaves (and fruit in season) where it's a challenge to sort out what parts are connected where. Not only does this make it hard to impose hierarchy on it, the "vine image" makes it clear that the relationships within are of absolute importance because there is no clear or direct connection with the trunk for each of the branches WITHOUT APPRECIATING THOSE OTHER BRANCHES and members as the means by which I and others are fed from the trunk. Too many people want ONLY (or almost only) a one-on-one personal relationship with God that does not respect what God says in this John 15 image (and the other pictures of divine life), or, worse, they prioritize a one-on-one relationship with their pastor. Horror."
We'll see what other comments come as we go along.  Feel free to comment below.

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