Rector's Ramblings: May 2nd 2021





Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

   It’s hard to believe that Easter Day was only a month ago. It is strange how time rushed by these days and I don’t think it is just to do with age. In these days when we continue in the Easter season, the Sunday bible readings take us back to the time when Jesus was preparing his first followers for the time when he wouldn’t be with them physically any longer. He knew that times wouldn’t be easy for them. Perhaps therefore, these readings have something very pertinent to say to us in these days when the way we ‘do’ church is being challenged. Do remember Jesus was not leaving them with any form of formal church institution; and Paul when he founded churches, stayed with them for a while but then left them to go ahead on their own. Christians today where there is persecution often cannot come together as ‘church’ in any sense we would recognise.

   Jesus wanted them, and us, to know he can be trusted for all time and in all situations. That was a learning curve for them then, as much as it is for us now. I wonder: do we desire Jesus, long to know him better and dare to long to trust him more? It is the journey to which we are called.

   Jesus drew from everyday images around him. Last week we had Jesus the good shepherd (see last week’s Ramblings). This week we have Jesus declaring ‘I am the vine’ and his Father the vinedresser/gardener. I find this a harder image to understand so have been doing some reading to find out about vine culture. It is said that the vinedresser knows all about his vines, how they grow, what they need and when they need it (like the shepherd and his sheep). The grapevines are with him for decades and he knows them well and how best to care for each vine’s needs.

   Jesus says he is the vine; in God’s vineyard, there is only one vine (Jesus) and the main part of tending is the branches (us). This has always been tricky bit for me of John 15:1-8 with its reference to branches being thrown away if not fruitful. I read this by Jeremy Myers:  “First, the unfruitful branches which are taken away. The Greek word for takes away is aerei, and can be translated as either “lifts up” or “takes away.” .......We go to vinedressers and ask them what they do with unfruitful branches. And what is it they do? Grapevines, if left unattended will grow along the ground, and if left lying on the ground, will send little roots down into the soil rather than produce any fruit. They may produce a few tiny clusters of bitter grapes this way, but since they are trying to draw nutrients from the soil where their own roots cannot get deep enough, they will not produce grapes. So when a vinedresser comes along, and sees branches lying on the ground, he knows that what they need is not to draw their own nutrients from the soil, but to get their nutrients from the vine, because the vine’s root system goes deep. And so, what does he do? He lifts the branch up off the ground and supports it in the air with a trellis or lattice work. This way, the branch has no choice but to draw all of its sustenance from the vine, and as a result, will produce many sweet clusters of grapes.”

   Hope that helps you. Connected to the vine, the branches will be fruitful and produce good fruit because it is the natural result of healthy growth. Go it alone is not a good idea. Jesus’ message? Stay close to me, stay connected –learn to live in me. Two images – shepherd and vine – which Jesus offers to us and invites us into a deeper trust of Him.

     Both images have corporate aspect too: the flock of sheep and the branches all anchored in same vine – here for me is the reminder that we are called to support, encourage and even challenge each other as Christians but also that we have a purpose: as sheep to show love that draws others into the sheep pen, as branches to be fruitful, with that fruit of the Spirit which as Paul has it  “is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26)

   How we are to organise that corporate part of our life together, the fellowship, is I guess what is really at the heart of the Shaped by God Together process. Are we being the flock of sheep, the vine branches in the best way for 2021 and beyond? How is Jesus calling us on in the journey of faith and trust together? That is at the heart of everything when speaking of our call to follow Jesus.

  Let’s not despair but trust our Good Shepherd, trust the vine and the vinedresser.