Saturday, May 9, 2009

Vines, abiding and loving one another

Abide in me as I abide in you. We don’t talk about abiding much these days. It’s more than living, has a touch of remaining, and, when I looked it up on my computer thesaurus, it’s current use has to do with toleration. The thesaurus says it means to put up with, to stand or to stomach something.

Well, that’s a far cry from what Jesus had in mind. Abide in me as I abide in you is a direct translation of I am the vine and you are the branches. Jesus says that a branch that tries to abide without the vine will be fruitless, won’t be able to do its job and, in fact, will wither and die.
So abiding is a quality of relationship, the relationship that gives us life. Think of it as being in the same skin as Jesus, really being an extension of the Lord. Abiding is more than believing.
It is sharing Jesus’ DNA.

And abiding leads to fruitfulness, an “activity deeply rooted in the soil of God’s grace.” There was once a man who liked people but would rather spend time with his books. He and his wife were new to the town and the wife wanted to make friends with other couples their age. On paper, it sounded like a good plan but sometimes in the middle of a dinner party, the man would find himself drifting in the direction of his library.

Over time, though, he discovered he really liked their new friends and couldn’t imagine life without them. He realized that he was an extension of them. This group got together once a week and they prayed, ate, and played together. They also ministered to their neighborhood

And then, one day, they all decided to move into the city because they felt their gifts –
especially their model of Christian community – were needed there. They began sharing more than ever – cars, food basics and shelter when one apartment or another was being worked on. And good things happened in the city with the help of this community.

Think of them as a kind of family if you will. Or think of them as branches on the same vine,
there to help each other be fruitful.

The hard part about being a branch on Jesus the vine is that it calls for community over individuality. It requires us to understand that abiding in Jesus is not limited to the two of us.
It is not a case of me and my Jesus over here and you and your Jesus over there and we are all doing our own thing. We don't even get to have starring roles and it is not a one person play.
No, the vine is our source of life and the branches are – all together – the rest of the plant. No branch gets to stand out. No branch is immune from pruning done to help us become a better branch. And the pruning is for the whole plant even if it happens only to a single branch.

We have a hard time with that concept. Our culture has hammered into us the importance
of being me or you so much that we have lost sight of the fact that not being us makes both me and you poorer, can cause us to wither and die.

There is a small town in Mexico. It is at the base of the mountains and also on a main railroad route. Every day, trains go by the town loaded with agricultural produce, some manufactured goods and people hanging on however they can. These people come from areas of Central America that are so poverty stricken that they are willing to risk everything to make the treacherous and illegal journey into the United States.

When the trains get to this town, they often slow down, I guess because they are beginning the climb into the mountains. And the people of this town take advantage of that slowing down to run out to the train and pass up food and sometimes clothing to those clinging to the train.
The town is not a poor one except perhaps by our standards. The people are happy to share
whatever food they have with these people who, for lack of food, have been driven from their homes. A reporter asked the townspeople how they could be so generous when they might find themselves also without food.

“Whatever we give, God multiplies,” said one woman. “We help because they are suffering more than we are.”

There are some in the town who do not approve but most everyone is united in doing what they can to help.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God. Those who abide in love abide in God. Abiding in God requires loving one another even to the point of putting the needs of others
on a par, if not above, our own. We cannot be fruitful just for ourselves. We must be fruitful for God, wherever and however God calls us to do that.

When Philip ran out to join the Ethiopian, he did not go alone. He knew that he was part of a community, that he abided in God. And so it was easy for him to invite the Ethiopian to abide in God, too. And it was that same community, confident in the love of the Lord, that the Ethiopian instinctively knew was what he had been waiting for all of his life.

Abiding is serious business. It can’t be done in a few hours a week and it can’t be about just me and my Jesus. May this bundle of branches come to abide in the vine as we work together to be fruitful for God.

[Many thanks to Meg from RevGalBlogPals and Christian Century for the inspiration.]


Sonia said...

This is interesting and thought provoking but abiding is hard. Especially when it seems that the fruit of the rest of the vine is white grapes and you seem to produce pears.

Anonymous said...

When I think of the word abide, I think of the words, "dwell", "endure", and "remain."