May 3, 2015 – The Story of This Vine and Them Branches
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Norwood is a community where generations grow up together, or at least it has been that way. Our family was a modern, transplanted kind of family – growing up in St. Louis, far from my family in New England. Stories as a way to know people you never got to know – my little Irish Grandma Celestine whom I never met, who danced the Charleston with her kids when the doctors ordered her to stay in bed, and my crazy uncle who used to sleepwalk and walked right out his upstairs bedroom window one night into the snow. We are connected as a family through stories, this and many others.
Story is a human thing, because God, who is the beginner of all families, is the Great storyteller, speaking the whole universe into being with a story – Genesis “Once upon a time – let’s have solid land and sea and sky; let’s have lights in the sky to keep track of days and seasons; let’s have the air full of birds and the waters full of swimming critters and furry beasts all over the land. And let’s plant a garden, and make a Mama and a Papa to care for the plants and give names to the animals and dig up the earth and stuff.” And it was all very good. Genesis – it’s not a science or history book; it’s a story – a true story – because we, the human family, created in the image of the Great Storyteller, understand better from stories than from rulebooks or textbooks.
Look at the OT – 10 commandments – the basics: don’t lie to each other, don’t hurt each other, don’t talk back to your parents – but more than 2,000 years of stories – Noah and the Ark, Moses in the Basket, David and Goliath, Ruth, Esther, etc. He doesn’t just want us to follow his rules, he wants us to know who he is, and we know who God is by the stories he tells us.
It’s not surprising that when God put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood he taught us with stories too – of lost sheep and lost coins and weeds in the wheat fields.
The very last story Jesus told his disciples was today’s reading – I am the vine, you are the branches – I love the image, but do you ever wonder – what does it mean, really, specifically, to wake in the morning and be a branch, and abide in the vine?
Keep reading and we see – As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
It’s a story about love, and the reason a vine is a perfect image is because a vine is alive, and love is a living thing, not a rule or a formula. It’s about life, not religion. Jesus tells a story of a whole life in him that has a past and a present and a future, a life that has roots and grows.
Our past, or origin: love
The root is the most important thing (our apple and pear trees). As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you…You aren’t here by accident, or even by your own willpower alone. You are here, you are part of this church family, because you were wanted, hand-picked.
God is love in person – the origin of all things is love (back to Genesis) – love can be a hazy word to define – we know it by its absence, like light/dark we know love/hate – and we know it in action, our words and our work and our thoughts – We love because he first loved us…
Our present, our now: abiding
Those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. We know we abide in him because he has given us his Spirit ( = relationship). If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us. ( = relationship) The Father revealed his love by sending his Son to be the Savior of the world. If we believe in him, we abide in God. That’s the meaning of the living attachment – “abide in the vine”. And we need this relationship with God, desperately, unquestionably, we need to be connected, or we wither and die like branches cut off – but the Father is the Farmer and he can restore us – “no fear in love”.
Our future, God’s hope for us: fruit
The meaning of the story is that we are created in love, by love itself, for the purpose of loving. We love because he first loved us – love is the fruit of love – many varieties of love, according to the branch. Because fruit happens, the branch doesn’t make it up, it is the natural result of being a branch, the branch becoming itself. The Father is not up there hoping we straighten up and finally make something of ourselves – he has no other goal for us than that we grow up to be completely ourselves, doing in love whatever it is in us to do. Lurid catalogs with 5-in-1 trees….
The story of the Vine is our life story, our family history; it’s the story of where we came from, who we are, what keeps us green and growing, and what wonderfulness lies ahead. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love… These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.