23rd May 2015

Remaining plugged in

When we visited Ethiopia on our recent mission, we found that the electricity goes off often. So recharging your mobile, camera and so on is a gamble. Jesus clearly tells us that we need the Holy Spirit for righteous living and for witnessing to the Gospel. We too need to remain plugged-in.

Pentecost is the surest sign that God is not selfish but yearns to give Himself and to empower us with the life St Paul describes: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15: 1-8

A symbol of Intimacy and Reliance

Once again in this passage, we find one of the many ‘I am’ statements in the Gospel of John. In chapter 10 Jesus says ‘I am the Good Shepherd’. The word means ‘morally good, impeccable in character.’He proved this by his love for us, dying on the cross for us – He did it with me in mind, so that we could have an eternal relationship with Him.

In this passage Jesus calls Himself the ‘true vine’, a symbol of intimacy and reliance. Israel, God’s people, was already referred to as the vine of God in the Old Testament: The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel.(Isa 5:7)

Israel was meant to be so much identified with God, that they were to be a source of hope and salvation to the people around. The failed miserably, so now the True Vine is here – where Israel failed, He succeeded.

Two types of Branches only

Although it needs special care and good soil not grow, once it grows, it grows a lot.

The vine has two types of branches – those which bear fruit and those which do not. There isn’t a third type. The ones that do not bear fruit, though they look good and may be full of leaves, are not really abiding in the vine and they need to be cut off so they will not take the strength the other branches need. Maybe some people look as if they are Christians but they are bearing no fruit at all. The Lord has a warning here!

Pruning can be painful

But even those which bear fruit need to be pruned, and cleaned because otherwise the grapes will be small and sour. When you prune, the sap goes to less branches but they make bigger and sweet fruit. God too prunes us in different ways in our lives, to break our egoism, to keep us humble – he may even permit good things to be removed so we will go stronger. We may not like it but even when we pass through moments of pain and suffering, it is an opportunity for us to cry out to God and grown in His grace.

The fruit is for others

We need to keep in mind that no vine branches eat their own fruit – the fruit is for others. In the same way, the work of the Holy Spirt in is and through us is so that we can become whole and loving disciples. But no fruit grows instantly and we need to be pattern as the Divine Gardner tends to us.

Abiding is our responsibility

On our part we are called to abide in Him, a word Jesus repeats 6 times in this passage.

The word implies commitment, faithfulness and obedience. There is the need of responsibility from our part.

Many people grow weary of prayer.In there first prayer after conversion they pray ardently, then later more lazily, then rather coldly, and at last quite negligently; the think themselves secure. The enemy is on the watch, and you are asleep. But the Lord commanded in the gospel that we must pray always and not give up (Luke 18:1) …we must not grow weary, then , in our prayer. God may delay, but he will not disappoint us over what he means to grant. Fully confident in his promise, we must not get tired of praying; and if we persevere, this, too is by his good gift (St Augustine)

What is quite amazing are these words of Jesus: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Fathers glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:7-8