Monday, January 5, 2009

The True Vine

"I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

When I was a child there was a lot of talk from my parents, my father particularly about "sticking with me." This usually meant that there was a chore, not well planned out, but that there was this time and something to be done. It often entailed more waiting around time than any child really wants to invest. We had a house, which my mother still lives in, that needed constant attention, constant maintenance, and lots of elbow grease. The old navy man in my father would regularly call out, "all hands on deck." We knew then we were doomed to another day of slave labor and another lost day of playing with our friends. We were a family closely connected, almost intertwined like vines, and there was no getting away or undone from what needed to be accomplished. Other neighbor kids had their very own chores, that when completed, they were free to go. We had to hang around, we all shared many tasks, and we never got released soon enough for our liking. We could hear laughter in the distance calling to us, we could see from our painting ladders the gangs of bike children swirling by, we could taste what we were missing and yet we were bound, collectively to see the many tasks through. And one never said to my parents we were bored - never. There was always a major project that could be found if we felt any twinges of boredom.
We were also never alone, never abandon, never left with sitters while our parents took off without us. They needed us in all their doings since the income was limited and the children plentiful. We were interconnected, interdependent, relying on each other at all times. We shared everything, whether we liked it or not.

Jesus tells his disciples that he is the vine and they are the branches, a very model of interdependence. Woven together and impossible to function without the parts together, like a symphony, a human body or an automobile, the health and good function of one depends greatly on the health and good function of the other. We as Christians these days often talk about our personal faith, and yet my experience has reinforced, over and over, that our faith is anything but personal. Faith is so dependent on the health and function of the other. When one stumbles, the whole community is challenged and off balance. There is no good fruit without interdependence, both on those nearby and those who are far away. It really changes my understanding of faith when I think how truly dependent my faith is on the faith of others. I cannot be a follower of Christ on my own. When we turn away from one, we might just be turning away from all.

Today, I want to remember how much I need Jesus along with the others in my community. I cannot pray unless many are praying, whether I can see them or not. And an other's tears are mine to shed also since all of our faith flows through the compassionate vine of Jesus. May we all this day reach out in faith to others, knowing as we are connected we can be fruitful together. Our abundance is dependent on the abundance of others. May we take seriously our need for each other today, and are extraordinary need for Jesus the vine.

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