Happy Mothers Day! I love my mother, and I wouldn’t be here without her!
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”
This is the season for Garage Sales, it seems. Everywhere you look, the Spring cleaning ritual has begun. The dark recesses of the garage or storage shed that have accumulated only heaven know what are being probed for things to sell, or purged, as the case may be.
I have been doing just that. I have lots of stuff that I have accumulated over the years that I thought I would use someday, but instead, it has just been taking up space. I always had that mindset of thinking I would need something that I had just thrown out, so I rarely threw things out.
Sometimes I actually do find a part that I had saved to upgrade some old computer, or add some doo-dad to my motorcycle, but for the most part, those parts just sit there. But now the store room has lots of goodies to put in our Garage Sale!
Cleaning out the storage is like pruning the vine. Some of the things that are stored are no longer good for anything, so they need to be thrown out. Some of the things in the storage can be used for other purposes, so they need to be pruned away.
Jesus told this parable of the grapevine with the knowledge of how the prophets used this same imagery. In Psalm 80, the Hebrew People are the vine. Psalm 80, verses 8 and 9 recall the Exodus:
“You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground before it, And it took deep root and filled the land.”
The prophet Isaiah spoke about the vine in a less than positive way:
“Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it And also hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones.”
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel And the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress. (Isaiah 5: 1,2,7)
The House of Israel had disappointed the LORD, and had not produced the fruit he had intended.
The answer, of course, was the Word made flesh, Jesus, the Son of God.
Today we heard Jesus say, “I am the True vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” Jesus emphasizes this role with the word True, as in the original, not a copy or an imitation.
Jesus told us, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And his Father is the vinedresser. A vinedresser is the one who prunes the vine. Pruning is the act of removing the parts of the vine that are taking up the resources, like water and light, but are not producing any advantage to the vine. It can also mean the cutting away of any dead branches that are not producing any grapes.
The purpose of the branch is to bear fruit. People don’t raise grapevines to look at the pretty leaves. They take the trouble to cultivate, plant, water and tend the vines so that fruit can be enjoyed. In this sense, we can say that fruit represents Christian character.
What is the fruit of Christian character? Let’s look at St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22,23)
Real fruitfulness is only determined over an extended period of time. “Genuine conversion is not measured by the hasty decision but by long-range fruitfulness.” (Erdman)
The purpose of fruit-bearing is to bring glory to God, not man. If people look at our lives and praise us for the glorious fruit, something is wrong. The whole purpose is the glorify God.
Branches that don’t bear fruit are cut away and thrown into the fire. This means that those of us who do not produce the fruit of the Spirit are cut away from the vine, too. Are you producing Spiritual fruit? Or is your life dedicated to temporal fruit, that is making money, and accumulating things?
Jesus also uses the word Abide to emphasize the fact that he makes his home in us, and we make our home in him. If we do abide in him, then we will indeed produce the Spiritual fruit he is talking about.
But if we do not abide in him, and do not allow him to abide in us, then we are in danger of being cut off from the vine.
I urge you to examine your lives and see if you are indeed producing the good fruit of the Spirit, and if you are not, ask Jesus why not, and listen for the answer. He wants you to produce the good Spiritual fruit, and to have life, and have it abundantly.
Remember these words, “Abide in me Jesus, and let me abide in you.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.