“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.” – Jesus in John 15:5 (NRSV)
My husband and I went to Reiman Gardens last week. Besides wanting to see thousands of tulips in bloom, I was hoping to take pictures of vines. The tulips were beautiful. The vines were not.
I tend to think of a vine as an indoor plant growing in a pot in a corner with vines looped across the top of a window sill or curled across a shelf. Outdoors vines are added to flowerpots to add background greenery to brightly colored blossoms. Vines wind up and around trees along the bike path. Gardeners grow vines that bear cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and more. None of these have branches as I think of branches.
The vine Jesus mentions is more substantial. Something, perhaps, like a grape vine. The thicker trunk (is it called a trunk?) is rooted in place, staying put in all seasons. Branches also remain throughout the year, drawing sustenance from the vine. Leaves appear at the appointed time. In good soil and with the right mix of sunshine and rain, pollination and pruning, the vine and its branches produce fruit.
Jesus, the vine, is rooted in God and nourished in God’s ways. He offers us the nutrients needed for growing and bearing fruit: welcome and acceptance, healing and wholeness, loving-kindness and justice, encouragement and challenge. But in order to receive all Jesus has to offer, we have to stay connected! Remaining in relationship with Jesus requires prayer, study, reflection and gathering with others to worship.
Jesus doesn’t describe the fruit. But letter to the Galatians does: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience; kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NRSV)