The Stodden Churches

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter 

Vine and branches

For vines to grow well and consistently produce a good fruit, which then becomes the basis for a good wine it is all about the “terroir”! The “terroir” is a French word that describes the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced that gives it its characteristic taste and flavour. “Terroir” is all about the quality of soil and where that soil is, in other words the micro-climate around it, the quality of growth can even vary greatly from one side of a valley to another. You can buy the best quality vines but if the “terroir” is not right then no matter how hard you try you will not be able to get the quality you desire.

So as we reflect on Jesus’ use of the image of the vine to get his disciples to think about their ongoing relationship with him let’s begin with the “terroir”. The soil in which the vine that is Jesus is rooted is God himself, because as we know from the writer to the Hebrews Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb.1:3). It is from the soil that the vine draws its life and strength, so the soil is the very essence of God, which is love. John, the writer of our Gospel reading today, tells us in his first letter: “God is love” (1 John 4:16). In the same verse John goes on to say “whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him”. I wonder if when John was writing his letter he was reflecting on Jesus’ words where he says “I am the vine; you are the branches”.

So the Vine that is Jesus is full of love, the perfect love that is God; the sap that flows up the vine into the branches, bringing life and growth to them, and so fruit, is the love that is God. We don’t have to theorise what the quality of that love is, what it looks like, because we have seen that love in Jesus, above all in his sacrifice on the Cross. Again as John, our Gospel writer, wrote in his first letter; “this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

In using the image of the Vine Jesus is giving his disciples a picture of how their ongoing relationship should be after his resurrection as they go forward as his church. It is a picture of a close, intimate relationship. You cannot have any more intimate language than talking about “abiding in me, and I in you”. A branch is intimately part of the vine, taking its life from the body of the vine; it cannot survive once cut off. Jesus is quite vivid in his imagery; “if anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers” (John 15:6)

This picture of such a close, intimate relationship is not just for those first disciples, Jesus intends these words for all his disciples who will become his church, so his words are for us too. Jesus is saying to us: “I am the vine; you are the branches”.

This intimate picture of vine and branches is one of effective Christian Spirituality. If we want to grow as Christians, as human beings, and to become more effective disciples then we need to develop our spirituality; and that brings us back to Jesus saying: “I am the vine; you are the branches”. For our spirituality to develop, to go deeper, then we need to look closer at the branch and its relationship with the vine. The branch grows and begins to produce fruit because of the sap flowing into it from the body of the vine. In the Image Jesus gives of himself as the vine, and as us as his branches, then the perfect love of God is the “sap” flowing from the body of the vine (that is Jesus) through our thoughts and emotions. The better our connection into the vine the more effectively the love that is God can indwell us and flow through us, and then we will produce in our lives the fruit Jesus is looking for, and that God the Father desires; “no branch can bear fruit by itself; It must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” says Jesus.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, let us become a true branch on the vine that is you, a branch that bears much fruit. Let us accept you in our lives in what-ever way you choose to come in, and may our lives be fruitful in truth, love, joy, and peace. Amen.



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