John 15: 1-8 (NIV)
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
When we moved house in 2019, we inherited a garden which has a number of fruit trees – there are apples, plums, greengages and even a walnut tree. The previous owners had worked hard to develop these and we were determined we would not let them down. Our first summer brought an amazing harvest and we were very blessed. But this year, we need to take responsibility for pruning, maintenance, feeding and all the other things.
Jesus was always able to “nail” his examples. He found imagery which was both mundane and captivating – stories which were anchored in things everyone could understand but which were memorable and remain meaningful today.
We can all understand gardens. We all understand that fruit and flowers come with effort and that someone is responsible. We also understand that we are not going to get any apples from a branch we’ve lopped off during pruning.
Christian life needs work and development. That growth needs to take place in relationship with Jesus. If we cut ourselves off from God, we cannot expect to grow in God. Now that’s not always easy for most of us. We may feel that the church is not the right place for us at a given time or that we cannot commit time or emotion. This passage says that, if that’s where we are, we can carry on by holding on to Jesus. Some years the crop will be better than others but the fruit can only grow on the tree.
Father, almighty God, I want to grow my faith in you. Make it strong, make it rich and make it fruitful. Help me to stay firm to the vine that is Jesus. May he feed me, nourish me and produce, in my life, a rich harvest. AMEN