|Line of Crepe Myrtle trees in Charlotte NC|
"Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its ownunless it remains on the vine,so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,because without me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5One of the advantages of living in the north is that we get to experience a definitive spring. There is nothing subtle about a landscape that is barren and seemingly dead when it suddenly begins to green and flower. There is an awesome power that seems to infuse what is barren and through it brings life and vitality. There is a life force that cannot be denied or delayed. In its time it bursts through lifelessness and beings forth life in all it fullness. In vineyards, the brown stalks begin to open and permit bursts of green leaves to come forth. That life force has been hidden in the vine but now, in its time, beings forth branches of green leaves that will in turn bring forth buds, flowers, and then grapes. This happens annually and without fail. it requires no effort on the part of the vine because it is a vine and its nature is to bring forth life.
This is the powerful analogy that Jesus uses in one of his many attempts to explain to followers what his mission is, who he is, and, more important perhaps, who we are. There are no human words or concepts which can clearly explain the incarnation, redemption, resurrection and all the other central beliefs of Christianity. So Jesus did what we all must. He turned to poetics and indirection. This analogy of the vine and branches is one of the most powerful.
The incarnate Divine One, Jesus, abides in us, his followers, and we abide in him. He somehow lives in us and we live in him. This abiding is our pathway to true life, everlasting life of the triune divine One. In the same way that a branch emerges from the vine and then unfolds in buds, flowers, and fruit, so do we emerge from the Divine One incarnated as Jesus and the everlasting life emerges as blooms, buds and fruit as a natural process of our relationship with Jesus.
There is no sense that we do anything to earn this or that we have to obey a set of rules and commandments. That approach had been tried and was found inadequate. There is nothing we can do in our human life to merit or create this everlasting, divine life. We only have to accept it and let it flow in and through us. This means that we have to let go of our ego needs and desires and accept the love that is ours by our birthright.
This turns out to be the most difficult task of human life but one which leads to a fullness of life that is not possible in any other way.