Going wild

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.... My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. John 15:1-2,8

Much of the comment and preaching on this passage focuses on its role as one of the great "I am" passages that John relates. "I am the vine," says Jesus, "and you are the branches." And we rightly think about Jesus as the connective tissue between his disciples, and as the source of nourishment, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the branches.

Vines are amazing plants. They are prolific, productive. They do not stay put, but grow in every direction if given the opportunity, and something to support them (the ground, a tree, a fence or building). Some of our favorite food plants are vines (tomatoes, grapes, squash, cucumbers, kiwi fruit, melons, beans, and peas).

However vines are also pests, with ivy, kudzu, and jungle vines overgrowing anything they can (English country homes, abandoned structures, lost cities).

While Jesus lifts up the vine's connectivity, and may also seek to recall its mustard-like persistence, if there is a central image in this passage it is the vine's fruitfulness.And critical to a vine's fruitfulness is its trainability. A vine will grow in any direction it is able. But Jesus' heavenly Father tends the vine, directs the vine, prunes the vine so that it may grow in ways which produce fruit. Jesus, as Son of his Father, has been trained, in prayer, by God's spirit, and in his ministry with others.

So it is with Jesus' disciples. If we "go wild," we will grow willy-nilly, and are unlikely to put much of our energy into producing the fruits of his kingdom. But following Jesus means being trained, directed, led to grow in righteousness. We pray that the energy which might be wasted in quarreling, in anxiety, might be used instead to grow charity, kindness, forgiveness, justice, peace.

As we look to the kind of ministry Jesus call us to, how much of our lives are spent "going wild"? And how much are we letting ourselves be trained, guided, by the master gardener, God?



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