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.