Sunday, May 07, 2006

Community of Branches

It's Sunday night again, so I have today's sermon on my mind. Today the Scripture was the vine and the branches from John 15- Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. I read the New Interpretter's Bible Commentary about it this week, and it was insightful.

The image of the community being intertwined and interdependent, and that it requires this interdependency to bear fruit is definitely counter cultural. To experience the fullness of Christ, I have to be abiding in the vine, be a part of a community that surrounds and sustains me, and vice versa. It goes against our culture's rugged individualism. It goes against the idea that a person does not truly need a church family.

I am fond of saying that it is too hard to be a Christian all by myself, without the support of other Christians. That is what Jesus seems to be saying.

So when it comes to asking myself whether I am abiding in Jesus, and bearing fruit, and showing love (all important questions), the first question is: "is my community abiding in the vine and known for it's love? Are the branches I am intertwined with bearing the fruit of love?"

The vine and branches imagery is counter cultural in a second way- it lacks a hierarchy. There is no pecking order. Every one is the same before God. When I look at ivy, it is hard to follow one branch. I see multiple branches woven together. I am reminded of iconographers of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Historically, they do not sign their beautiful art work. It's considered taking credit for what God does through them. This type of humility, rooted in the belief that all are beloved by God, all use God given gifts, where there is no expectation of individual recognition, is certainly different. And challenging.

What would it look like if the average American church family took such things seriously? For me, it would mean abiding in the vine more deeply, for it would be my only source of affirmation.

1 comment:

  1. 6 yrs. ago my husband and I were looking for a church, as we both felt that we needed something more in our lives. We each had been raised in different faiths, and in not wanting to force our children into our beliefs, we ended up feeling we had neglected our older children, as far as God was concerned. We taught them right from wrong, but didn't force them into our faith, we felt that was their decision. However raising teenagers is a definite challenge for any family, and we were left feeling like we were missing something in our lives. We vowed to find a church, introduce God more thoroughly to our youngest son, in the hopes that both we and he would find purpose and direction in our lives by doing so.
    Much like the vine embraces the trees and fence posts along Courthouse and Town Point Roads, Trinity/Town Point Methodist Church embraced us immediately. We felt like family from day one. Both the Forsythia and the Vine stories remind me that our children, much like those plants, must be properly planted and pruned and constantly groomed to know God. If you plant the seed, and then do nothing with it, that knowledge will wither and die, like the forsythia without sun or fertilizer and water. And like the vine without proper pruning, they would grow every which way the wind, or time (or their peers) dictate, without any purpose or meaning. If our children grow with the proper care, faith and knowledge of God's ways, they (and we) have a much better chance of making the proper decisions on which way to grow.