Lessons from the Vine (Part 1)

shallow focus photography of bluberries
 

“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. . .  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.”  John 15:3-5

What if a bird never figured out how to make a nest?  What if a salmon got tired of swimming upstream and wanted to be the grizzly bear?  What if a fig tree got tired of producing fruit and decided to just look pretty in leaves?  Well, we can answer that one.  Jesus cursed such a fig tree, and it was dead before another day dawned.  Most of creation has no confusion over why it exists, no unhappiness with the design of its Creator.  Just human beings.  Our first parents were told by Satan that there had to be something more to life; and they fell for it.  Ever since, people have been mistrustful of their Creator and dissatisfied with their circumstances.

In the analogy of the vine and branches, Jesus teaches you to be what you are.  What you are is clean, stripped of every wrong thought and sinful act in your life.  You have been declared righteous by the powerful Word of God, restored to a perfect relationship with your God by Jesus. Your life is not about trying to make God like you, or bless you, or at least get off your back.  You aren’t running away from your past or worrying about what’s going to happen when you die.  You are God’s dearly loved child.  That is your identity.  So don’t waste time in some philosophical search to “find yourself.”  Who you are and where you stand with your God were established at a cross two millennia ago.

What you are is purposefully connected to your Savior, like a branch to a grape vine.  You are not alone in the universe, some existential bubble floating on the sea of nothingness.  (I read that somewhere, but I don’t understand what that means either.)  You aren’t left to your own devices, as though God caught you in a free-fall toward hell and put you back on the tight-rope of self-righteousness to try again.  You aren’t supposed to make your way through life with your mostly good intentions and limited moral resources.  You are connected to Jesus by the new life of faith he birthed in you.  But get this straight, HE is the vine, not you.  So you don’t have to figure out what a branch is for or how to bear fruit.  Right after reminding us that our salvation is by grace through faith alone, St. Paul in Ephesians wrote: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  In other words, the purpose of your life has already been designed into your new life of faith, and the ability to fulfill that purpose comes from the Savior who attached you to himself like a branch to his vine. 

Don’t make life complicated.  Treasure who you are and what you’re here for.  Don’t wish you had someone else’s gifts and personality.  Don’t make Christian life a burden or a problem.  Let Jesus live through you.  That’s how this works.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for your grace in making me your dear child.  Help me to appreciate all that this means and to find joy in living as your dear child.  When doubts come and life gets complicated, bring me back to the reality you established at Calvary.  Amen.


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