Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 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. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." John 15:1-11
I arrived in Oklahoma yesterday after long days of travel. We are gathering for Wintertalk, and it is a joy to see new and old friends alike. We are all relatives, no matter the tribe or the location we live. We are gathered to encourage one another and to learn together as we strengthen our ministries. I have been coming here for many years and much has changed. It is encouraging to see so many willing to serve God despite the challenges we face. We learn from one another and lean on each other.
Jesus uses the illustration of vine and vinedresser to help us understand our relationship to God and one another. We are interwoven and interdependent. We are all being reshaped and renewed as we offer what we have. God is tenderly encouraging growth and helping us to thrive and bear fruit. We are all tended daily, moment by moment, by a loving and caring creator, who stands with us through sunshine and storms.
Today, as we begin together, I ask God to help us all be tightly bound together, relying on one another for insight and strength. May we not fear the pruning and welcome the reshaping and renewal that God has for us. May we draw closer together trusting God to use the gifts we have for the strengthening of all.