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“I am the Vine, You are the Branches”

The Gospel of John is famous for the various “I am” statements of Jesus. Those of us familiar with Scripture will be well acquainted with Jesus’ statements: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35); “I am the light of the world” (8:12); “I am the door” (10:7); “I am the good shepherd” (10:11,14); “I am the resurrection and the life “ (11:25); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6); “I am the true vine” (15:1).

This past Sunday (April 21), we discussed Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This upcoming Sunday, April 28, we will consider the relevance of Jesus as “the true vine.”

Growing up in the Central Valley of California, vines and vineyards were common sights: from early summer when you would see the bunches of grapes start to form, through the late summer days when the vineyards were lined with paper as grapes lay on the ground to try into raisins. Then, in the winter, it would look like twigs wrapped tightly on the wires, waiting for the next year’s crop. As a small child, I would go with my father and brothers to a farm, to glean the grapes that were left after the pickers had already gone through. There was a tension between wanting to eat the fresh grapes immediately, and taking them home to wash the dust off. I still remember the ways flavors of dirt and grape juices mixed.

In this image from John’s gospel, Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

Jesus is rooted…connected to the soil, nutrients, ground, and all the sources of life. We are connected to Christ. We are vines, spread out, supported by wires, structures, systems, to serve our purpose: to bear fruit. When grape vines get too old to bear fruit, they are dug up and replaced, as their purpose is to bear fruit. When a vine is properly prepared and cared for, the season of bearing fruit is exciting and delicious…but eventually, pruning takes place. Jogging past a vineyard, you will see clippings and piles of leaves and branches piled high. There’s very little green left; only the twigs and vines, tied tight, waiting for the next year.

In my life of faith, I realize that I have experienced these cycles as well. Growing, sprouting, blooming – it feels good; a lot of progress comes all at once. On the other hand…pruning, trimming, securing the vines, and weathering the winter – it’s not very fun, but it’s necessary. Old branches need to be removed to ensure that the new growth will bear fruit. A vine with lots of big, beautiful, green leaves is worthless if there isn’t fruit. Likewise, we can continue to do lots of good things, the way that we’ve always done them, but are being fruitful? Productive? Are we bearing fruit? Are we connected to the vine? Are we willing to be pruned?

Each step comes in season. May God give us grace and patience.

Very truly,

Pastor Adam

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