Doug’s message on April 10, 2011 regarded Jesus’ teaching found in John’s gospel. “I am the true Vine,” said Jesus. “Abide in me, and I in you.” (John 15:1,4) This term rested at the center of Jesus’ description of the kind of relationship He and his Father (God) have with each other and that each believer is invited to share.
The setting was significant as Jesus was sharing Passover supper with his closest friends, the last supper they would enjoy together before Jesus execution the next day. Perhaps while lifting a cup of wine, Jesus used a grapevine metaphor to illustrate this “abiding” concept. He is the “true” vine, whereas God the Father is the vinedresser. Believers are branches who “bear fruit.”
“Abide in me,” said Jesus, and you will “bear fruit.” What fruit? The kind that flows from a branch, a person who clings to the Vine, to Jesus. The fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5: 22-23: “love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.”
I appreciated Doug’s message, but it wasn’t making me feel very fruity. I was struggling. Life wasn’t working for me. Then Doug offered Jesus’ explanation about how fruit production occurs – by simply staying connected to the vine, to Jesus. Through thick and thin, we cling, hold on, never let go and fruit will flow, “much fruit.”
And then he talked about “the catch.” About how “abiders” who bear fruit get PRUNED. Why? So that more and better fruit will grow.
Pruning. Jesus friends would know about pruning. They were Jews, people of the land and sea – shepherds, fishermen, and vintners. The language of the land was in their marrow.
They would know how pruning worked, and why. In the metaphor of likening a vine branch to a person, they would know that a person being pruned would not take to the treatment very kindly. Pruning hurts. It’s not fun. Think about recovering from an incision. The dang area hurts.
In my Twitter profile, I describe my journey as, “Negotiating the perils of earth life using a Bible as a flashlight.” Life is full of peril. Cindy and I are living in that peril right now. When God is the flashlight, the way he shows is often not the same way as what we hear in the culture around us. The Christian life is not easy or for the feeble of heart. Believers live in that tension.
But this is the life God has given us to live and Cindy and I are committed to walking with our God through every moment of it.
Christmas is, first and foremost, about the birth of Jesus Christ who we Christians believe to be God’s own son. Messages like these that are scripted in the lore and language of every day people reflect a very personal God. But Jesus’ arrival on the scene was God’s most dramatic demonstration that people matter.
Of all the “matter” conceived by God, the so-called “Intelligent” creator, people are the matter that matter the most. The God of Jesus is a personal God to each and every person who ever lived and ever will live. For God, everything is personal!