Stay Close to Jesus,
We Stay Close to One Another

Taken from my Red Rock News Article (4/26/24)
Rev. Dona Johnson | April 28, 2024

During Jesus’ days vines were grown all  over Palestine. These vines needed a great deal of  attention if they were to produce the best of fruit.  Some vines needed trellises to raise them off the  ground so the plant could receive more light. The  ground needed to be cleared and cleaned. A young  vine was not allowed to produce fruit for three  years and so, each year it was severely pruned and  cut back so it could conserve its life and energy.  

       Jesus tells his disciples that he is the true  vine and his Father is the gardener. And his Father  cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit so  the branch will bear much fruit. Then he says, “I am  the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me  and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from  me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me,  you are like a branch that is thrown away and  withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into  the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my  words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it  will be done for you” (John 15:1-8). 

       The vine and branches metaphor teaches us about God’s relationship  

with his people and their relationship  with him. God wants to be close to his people and God’s greatest  desire is that his people abide in him. In other  words, God’s great desire is to stay close to his  people. “Abide in me,” means to continue to in a  daily relationship with Jesus, characterized by trust,  prayer, reading his Word and obedience. In other words, safeguard your relationship with me so I  may abide in you fully. A mutually loving and  committed relationship requires cooperation.

 All  branches linked to the vine are equal. No branch is  singled out in anyway as being bigger or better,  and all branches are called to do the same: abide in  the vine and bear fruit, and submit to being  pruned. For most of us, abiding will mean to  remain in constant contact with him. Abiding in  Jesus will mean arranging life, arranging prayer,  arranging fellowship with other believers in such a  way that there is never a day when we give  ourselves a chance to forget him and run the risk of  becoming detached from God.  

       One important textual point of the “vine  and branches” metaphor is the vine not only  represents Jesus Christ but also his Church. Those  people who abide in Jesus Christ also are called to  abide in the koinonia, the community of Christ and  arrange their lives around it. Our current North  American culture is accustomed to high rates of  volunteerism and philanthropy—all very  remarkable gifts. However, there is the temptation  to view our membership and involvement in  nonprofits and faith communities as something  wholly up to us—we initiate our membership in a  particular faith community and its ministry or  terminate our involvement at will. Many people  feel they are entitled to decide whether they  belong, participate or cut ties. Thus, being a  voluntary member of a faith community means  joining and resigning are rather easy things in our  current culture. No big deal. Many of us have  become consumers of religion. We stop abiding in  this congregation or that congregation because it  doesn’t suit our preferences or we run into conflict  and quit altogether. But Jesus conveys to us it is a  big deal to resign or severe ties with the body of  Christ. When we resign or quit, we do damage to  God’s mission. Faith does not grow nor is it  nourished in a vacuum. Together, when we abide  in the life-giving vine of Jesus Christ, God gives us  the spiritual capacity to abide with one another in  genuine love and fellowship.  

       Together we will always produce more fruit  than if we work in a vacuum or work alone in a silo.  Staying close to Jesus enables us to stay close to  one another. God then multiplies our efforts!  Amen.