Attached for Life - Reflections 4-25-18

 For Sunday April 29, 2018

 5th Sunday of  Easter

 Acts 8:26-40 
 Psalm 22:25-31 
 1 John 4:7-21 
 John 15:1-8

 One of the things I enjoy about dealing with some of Jesus' metaphors is the extra information about all kinds of things that I get to learn as I try to discern what the hidden similarity to followers might be. 

This week is grapevines and the care of them. Apparently, there is an art to pruning them. It is possible to snip branches and shoots in ways that reduce the number, size, and/or juiciness of the grapes. Depending on what is planned for the grapes, those techniques guide the vines to become table grapes or wine grapes. The height of the vines and the fullness of the plant with leaves and stems, are all guided by the expert pruner’s hands, as well as training them to climb on the trellis. They need to be just the right height and depth to capture just the right amount of light to allow photosynthesis and transpiration take place. The plant, as one of my sources said, creates a microclimate for the grapes. Cool.

Abide, which is not a word common to viticulture, seems to key to this metaphor of the grapevine (as well as the lesson from 1 John 4). I was surprised by a recent comment that our use of the word today tends to represent following the rules, or not challenging the law, as in I will abide by the judgement of the court. When I hear the word, I think “live in” or “dwell” - as in I abide in my abode. And then there is also “be present” or “stay connected” which are probably used most often in churches.

One last bit about grapes. Over in France, the grapevines are grafted onto the stem/rootstock of plants from North America.  A little bug almost wiped out European vineyards in the late 1800’s. This villain feeds on roots, deforming them and eventually blocking the plant’s ability to drink and take nourishment. But American vines had, over time, evolved some work-arounds in their roots that foil the plans of that bug. So, grape growers grafted (and still do graft) vines of the French species that they prefer for their wine on American grapevine roots whose grapes are, according to the French, icky. If any of the vines touch the ground, away from the rootstock, those bugs take advantage of that and kill ‘em. Back to our expert vine grower: training vines to stay on the trellis is also a life or death move.

Cautionary tale: Ironically, the bug was brought into France by botanists who wanted to study these North America species; it spread wildfire. That is why cars are stopped before entering California and any fruit, vegetables, or plants are inspected or, more likely, just thrown out. It is easy to bring in a new invader species – often too small to see - which will munch up agricultural fields.

So now, with all that, where do you see Jesus’ metaphor taking us? 

We, the branches, are enabled to grow and flourish and bear fruit through our connection to Jesus (aka abiding). The expert vine grower (God) knows exactly where to trim and prune or where to leave it be to allow us to produce the fruit for which we were created. Note that we don’t have much responsibility. We abide, growing from Jesus, and are pruned to bear fruit. Also note that we are a part of something much bigger, a community.

Then there is the thing that all the vines & branches are grafted onto the root. Who knows what other vines might be grafted on the rootstock down the trellis? Getting back to abiding …. If we are connected to/abide in God who is love, we, by that connection, love others - even those people – I mean vines - down the trellis.  

How about you? Where does this metaphor take you?

Or what metaphor would you use to describe this connection to God and life?

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245