Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:24-30; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
“When you remove the risk, you remove the challenge. When you remove the challenge, you wither on the vine.” – Alex Lowe
This image of vine and branches speaks to community, both healthy and withered. It has to do with the quality of our mutuality and interrelationships. The Old Testament used this image several times (Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:6; Hosea 10:1). However, in these examples the vine itself is the community which sometimes is not up to the challenge of being God’s people in harmony. The vine is therefore destroyed. In today’s gospel Jesus, not the community, is the vine which is always true; and we are the branches. Therefore, if some branches do not produce fruit, the vine as a whole does not die. In this evolution of the image the plant is indestructible. Beware lest again we be tempted to be judgmental. Sure, the community will live on, but who of us are the withered branches that do not live up to the challenge? We might want to point fingers. Look in the mirror. The truth is that we all, each and every one of us, have fruitful branches as well as withered branches within ourselves. The pruning is not the destruction of certain individuals in the fire (John 15:6). Rather it is beautifying of each of us. Who does not need to be pruned? Perhaps the withered branch of judgmentalism needs to be cut from us. God stands ready to prune us into ever more healthy growth, into full bloom. But we need to let go. Why hold on to shunning, selfishness, revenge, envy, or dead end life plans, all petty twigs? Realizing our shortcomings is not a condemnation. This here is a resurrection theme. God is pruning us into life. We are still connected to the vine. At the Last Supper Jesus took the “fruit of the vine.” Every time we receive communion, drink from the cup, we drink to our health; and Jesus MC’s the toast.
In John 15:2 God “prunes.” In John 15:3 it says “You are clean already.” Both Greek words translated “prune” and “clean” have the same root. They both mean to cleanse. If we are “clean already” in spite of our shortcomings, God must have clear “clean” sight to be able to see the good in us. The Greek word for “already” also means “now.” Even before we are pruned, God has a vision of us being healthy, right now.
Withered branch whacked off.
Gone brittle twigs, yet more whole.
A vine fruit joy toast.