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NOTE Because of illness, the podcasts for Easter 5 are reissues from previous years. Fresh services and reflections to bring the current series up to date will be published as soon as possible.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.
Over the last two days we have paused to reflect upon the love and the generosity of God in our lives. Today we are being urged to reflect upon what we are going to do with the abundance of divine grace that is showered upon us by our loving and generous God.
Jesus did not come to earth for the benefit of a select few. Jesus was born into the human condition in order that he might establish a real and living covenant between God and humanity … for ever. Jesus brought his new model of love and service into this world in order that those who accept his teaching and choose to follow him might know the peace that only he can give. Jesus came to earth to inspire us into becoming his apostles in a world that is otherwise focused primarily on the material and self-serving.
Jesus compares his work with a vine. This would have made perfect sense to those who heard him speak. They would have understood his description of the vine growers need to prune the unproductive branches in order that an abundance of good fruit might grow and flourish. Whilst the growing of vines may not be in our immediate experience, Jesus’ image is clear and easy for us to understand. Jesus calls us to be those branches of his vine which produce more and more fruit, that is more and more disciples and apostles.
Over the last two days we have considered God’s love and generosity, today we need to consider the action we are going to take. Today we are being asked to set aside our human understanding of ‘love’, and we are being asked to engage with the totality of God’s generosity, and then we are being asked to share all of that with others. Too often we pause at this moment in our Christian journey. We stop to consider the inconvenience of taking the Christian story into the lives of others. We become fearful of scorn and rejection. We become like those dead branches that need to be pruned in order that less hesitant ones might flourish according to God’s wishes.
In many aspects of our lives we witness the imposition of a ‘glass ceiling’. We see people putting false limits on the expectations they have for others. We see people putting false limits on the expectations they have for themselves. When we fail to share the love and generosity of God with others we are doing the same. We are treating our relationship with God as a private gift that is for us alone. It is not! We are called to become followers of Christ (disciples) in order that we might also be Christ’s messengers (apostles). We are called to foster the fruit of faithful apostleship. We are not called to watch others struggle and wither because we treat all that we have been given as a gift for us alone.
Let us pray that we might help others to know and to love God through our sharing of the love and generosity of Jesus Christ.