Saturday, 5 May 2012

Step Twelve - Sunday Gospel -The Vine

GospelJohn 15:1-8 

Jesus said:
‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

Step Twelve- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of this step.  We tried to carry this message to those that still suffer.  And to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I used to have a grapevine that my nan had grown from a pip from the fruit bowl. When I moved into my house it was planted into a pot under the skeleton of a lean-to greenhouse. After a slow start it began to reach out; curling around any purchase of fence panel, chickenwire or twine; the vines easily reaching twelve or fifteen feet each season.

By the end of the summer it would be a reminder of holidays in Greece and Portugal with the open-handed leaves nodding in the sunshine. Only once did we ever get flowers - we are in northern Europe after all. That happened to be the same year we had a long and wetter than even usual winter; we postponed the winter pruning too long and the branches snapped; then the damp rotted the roots and she was gone. Twenty or so years didn't seem so bad for a fruit shop stowaway but I still wish I hadn't been so neglectful.

Vines can live and grow easily to 100 to 120 years. In fact, the oldest recorded vine that we know of is in a Slovenian vineyard and is over 400 years old. It produces a couple of gallons of wine in total, bless it, but it is there; giving out of itself through generations of vineyard owners and changes in history and culture. 

 Because of their longevity and need for particular care, vineyards are more like flocks of sheep or herds of cattle. They are an inheritance; a treasure; a lineage. The person who cares for the vine is called the ‘dresser’ and it is their task to keep the vine in the best possible condition for the grapes. This is a task that very much involves being cruel to be kind. In winter the vine, as tangled and far-reaching as it may have become, is pruned hard back to the first shoot from the oldest wood.

Throughout the growing season the pruning continues.

As soon as the vine flowers, all growth is stopped so that all the energy goes into the nurturing of the grapes; the ripening of the crop.

Within minutes of being cut the leaves wilt and the stems soften and collapse. The dresser then, as part of their care, must ensure that all the prunings are destroyed before disease or rot works through them to the heartwood.

When we hear this Gospel we are to understand that we must stay close to Jesus in order to be part of those who are ‘saved’; our fellowship relies on our not being cut off by sin or denial.

In a way that's the easy part.

See how Jesus talks about himself. He is the vine; a seed planted in the earth; no longer Creator but created; joining the struggle of birth, life and death that is the dream of the Father.

He is no mightly oak; no king of trees; he is a workmate; a servant; a crop.

Do you notice that it is Jesus himself who suffers the harshest of cuts? He is the heartwood that must be protected at any cost. The care that the Father pours on him does not allow Jesus to be free; if free means flamboyant; wasteful; tangled like my vine.

Jesus is free only to complete the work of the Father; to bring forth an abundant crop. We are that crop – the wine that is our joy is the joy of the Father. The back and forth of relationship. It is only through our attachment to Jesus that we can shine with grace; only with his attachment to his Father that he can fill us with his Spirit.

The Gospel message seems to repeat itself; Jesus repeats himself all through the Gospels, noticeably through John. The emphasis that this is not just a one off crop – this is not the wheat of the autumn harvest. We are meant for greater works. We will need to bend to the pruning knife ourselves if our faith is to see many summers.

This is the new lineage of life in Christ; this is the cycle of young wines and fine vintages; for many years of winter waiting; spring blossoming; summer fullness and autumn gathering.

This is life; life in Jesus; and through him - our home - in the Father.

 Dear God,
My spiritual awakening continues to unfold.
The help I have received I shall pass on  to others,
In spiritual fellowship.
For this opportunity I am grateful.
I pray most humbly to continue walking day by day
On the road of spiritual progress.
I pray for the inner strength and wisdom
To practice the principles of this way of life in all I do and say.
I need You and the love of  my friends every hour of every day.
This is a better way to live.



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