Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Bear Much Fruit

Reading: John 15: 1-8

Verse 4: “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine”.

Photo credit: Summertrain

Today we continue in John 15 with the vine and branches metaphor. Yesterday we looked at the primary role that our relationship with Jesus Christ plays in our life of faith. Jesus is the vine that gives us true life. God “prunes” or shapes and refines us to better model Jesus’ love to the world and to one another. As we practice Jesus’ sacrificial love in the world we are part of making new disciples – “bearing fruit” in this metaphor.

Today we look at our fellow branches and our connection to them. The branches of a vine are also connected to one another. There is often an interdependent relationship amongst the branches – they work together to produce a harvest. This idea reminds me of my community of faith. At the church we have a large community garden. The produce goes to people in need. Yesterday about a dozen folks gathered to plant potatoes, beans, carrots, beets, okra, turnips, strawberries, and many vining plants. Another group of about six gathered and provided a morning coffee break and a yummy lunch. Later in the day another came to help the leaders set up and test the watering system. All together we laid the groundwork for a ministry that will help feed many, sharing the love of Jesus along the way. In this way we are planting seeds that we hope and pray that the Holy Spirit nurtures into faith.

There are many other ways that our community of faith and other communities of faith work together to produce a harvest for the kingdom of God. For each of us, our call is to find where we each “fit” within our own communities of faith. Once we find our places to be a part of the vine we begin to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives. In these places we “bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples”. May it be so for each of us.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the beautiful communities of faith that have helped me to grow and that have nurtured my faith. Thank you for the place where you have now planted me and for the ways they nurture me and help me to grow. Continue to be at work in us; use us to build up the kingdom of God in this time and place. Amen.


The Vine…

Reading: John 15: 1-8

Verse Four: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself”.

Today’s vine, branches, and gardener example is a great illustration of our relationships of faith. The illustration could have used a fruit tree or a blueberry bush or any number of other plants and still been a good illustration. But a grape vine is best, so that’s what God chose!

Jesus is the vine. The vine begins in the ground, with lots of roots soaking up water and nutrients needed for the branches to be healthy and to bear much fruit. The vine is the thickest and strongest part of the plant. Jesus’ words and the rest of the Bible are the life blood of our faith and our growth. They provide what we need to grow and be healthy in our faith.

You and I are the branches. We are connected to the vine and get all we need through the root – Jesus. Whereas the vine is stable and rooted, we the branches can grow this way and that. We often intertwine with other branches. In our faith journey we live and grow in community. Like a branch, as we grow and mature, we begin to produce fruit. Fruit is acts like loving our neighbor, helping those in need, offering forgiveness and mercy…

God is the gardener. He tends the soil and cares for the plant. Sometimes the gardener must add support to a new branch so that it can grow well. In our faith journey, at times we come alongside each other offering support and encouragement. At times God also prunes the branches, removing things that inhibit the production of fruit. As a branch, at times I can get going a lot of different directions. In those times, I need God to prune away some things so that more of my energy goes into producing fruit.

In order for this to “work”, for us to continue to grow in our faith and to produce fruit for the glory of God, we must stay connected to Jesus. In verse four we read, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself”. In this passage we see what happens when we disconnect from Jesus: we wither and are thrown into the fire. This cannot be! My fellow branches, stay connected to life, to Jesus. In doing so, may you bear much fruit!

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Reading: Isaiah 5: 1-4

In our passage today God laments, “What more could I have done for my vineyard”?  God thinks back to the fertile land flowing with milk and honey that was handed over to Israel.  God recalls the cities they did not built that were offered as dwelling places.  God remembers how a shield was kept about them, protecting them from their enemies.  God’s people, the vineyard so carefully tended, is now producing bad fruit.  The people had all they needed to produce good fruit but have instead turned away from God.  God looks and sees bloodshed instead of justice, heard cries of distress instead of righteousness.

The passage calls us to look at and reflect on our own lives.  God has also richly blessed us in so many ways.  God has built hedges of protection around us.  God has poured into our lives the example of Jesus found in the scriptures and has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.  God has given us all we need to go forth and produce a good crop.  So we must honestly ask ourselves if we are doing so.  Are we using all of God’s rich blessings to go out and produce a crop of justice and righteousness and love?

Too often we can be like the crop God finds in Israel.  The soil is good and the leaves are healthy.  But the fruit underneath is sour.  We go to church and maybe even read our Bibles every day.  Then we go to work and exploit those with less power or cut a corner or bend a law for our own gain.  Or maybe we say and do all the right things out in public but harbor an addiction within the secret places of our lives.  We somehow think God does not know, but the pruning shears are ready to go to work.

Maybe instead we are holding onto a sin we can’t quite give to God or we are nursing a grudge or hurt from long ago and we can’t quite offer forgiveness to another.  God calls aloud for us to give up all that holds us back, to release anything that separates us from God, and to lay it at the cross.  God invites us to do this so that we can walk in a right relationship with our Lord and Savior.  God desires to prune away all that keeps us from being all God intends us to be.  Pruning can be hard but the results are a healthier plant that produced a better crop.  May we be willing to lay down all that hinders and separates us from God so that we may walk humbly and faithfully with our Lord.

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Aware of the Spirit

We live in a world that is constantly in change.  Every day people are born while others die.  People lose jobs, people starts new jobs.  People move from one place to another.  Even our relationships with those closest to us change and evolve over time.  In the midst of all of these transitions and changes though, God remains the same.

The call to abide in God in today’s scripture is a call to ground our life in the one thing that always remains rock solid.  Who and what God is and always will be the same.  His love and care for us never wavers.  He loves each of us just as much the day we were born as the day we die and all days in between.

Yet within the call to abide is also found the call to change ourselves.  We never reach the perfection found in God and Jesus, but we are called to seek to draw nearer and nearer to it as we live out our faith.  It is within this context that God seeks to prune us.  In this process of pruning we are shaped to grow more and more like Christ.

Our spiritual pruning is usually self-administered, done with the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  As we reflect on our lives, the Spirit points out things we need to change and things we need to pursue to grow closer to God.  This promoting comes in a wide variety if ways – from the gentle nudge to the quiet whisper to the in-your-face, can’t possibly miss this event.  The Spirit is always seeking to work in our lives.  We must allow it to shape, mold, and guide us to become more and more and more like Jesus.

Scripture reference: John 15: 1-8

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Pruning for Fruit

In the spring it is natural to clean, to prepare for a season of growth, to unclutter.  This week I uncovered and set out the patio furniture and rototilled the garden.  The lawn was mowed for the first time and I noticed that the rhubarb is almost ready to be picked.  Other plants are springing to life as well.

Down by the shed my grape vines are a mess.  An early storm last Fall toppled over the poles and wired that had supported the vines due to all the weight of the snow on the thick leaves.  I attempted a ‘fix’ last Spring, but it was largely unsuccessful.  I’ve come to realize hat I must tear out all the support and wires and really trim back the vines to be able to rebuild and start over.  It will mean that the grape crop this summer may be pretty minimal.

In today’s passage Jesus speaks of God pruning the fruitful branches and cutting off those bearing no fruit.  All this is done so that the whole plant can bear more fruit.  Energy goes more fully into what is fruitful.  With my grapes, I know this is true in the long run as well.

As I think about what I must do with my grape vines next week, I also come to realize that maybe I need to look at my life as well.  Are there things in my busy schedule that are not as fruitful and should go?  If I purge this or that, will newly available energy go into more fruitful pursuits?  This analysis may be a bit hard and maybe painful too, but God calls for my best.  Today’s question is where is God calling me to be invested.

Scripture reference: John 15: 1-8