“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4
It’s early morning on the Sea of Galilee. No big deal. Just causal. An easy going morning with the sun coming up, moon still out, birds making all kinds of songs of praise to the Father. There is minimal human activity this early. The sea is calm, the wind is still, the day is preparing to begin anew and I’m in Jesus’ neighborhood.
It’s not a bad place to be. I’m having a pilgrimage inside a pilgrimage. This is my fifth trip to the Holy Land but only my second to lead and I’m learning how to do it. To serve as well as to seek. To offer hospitality to new pilgrims while having an experience where I see the Lord in every step.
Today’s a good day. It’s a good day to read his word about the vine and the Gardner. He is the true vine, God is the Gardner. Branches that don’t bear fruit are cut off. Even branch that bears fruit are pruned so that they might bear more. Jesus reminds the disciples, as he reminds us, “you have already been pruned and purified by the message I have give you.” Therefore, he tells us “remain in me, and I will remain in you.” For no branch can produce fruit, Jesus says, if it is severed from the vine, and “you can’t be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
Does this what “remaining in him” feels like? Leading a trip to Israel. Baptizing people in the Jordan, as I did yesterday? Sure it’s a fantastic journey but not without it’s sacrifices. Is this what it means to be a branch connected to the vine? Am I both bearing fruit and being pruned? I sure hope I haven’t been cut off from unproductively!
No, I feel connected to the vine. I feel connected to the Gardner. As I “remain in me” so he is remaining in me. I know him, love him, want to serve him and please him. Even when I battle the flesh, he is my one truth and desire.
No, it’s not a bad gig. Sitting and looking out upon the land of the Bible. Walking where Jesus lived, moved, ministered and performed miracles of all kinds. And knowing, that in spite of me, he loves me. Prunes me. He cares for me even as I care for his sheep.
“O Lord God, you are good. I thank you for this passage which speaks life to me. I thank you for the physical ability to walk our land, lead other believers in this path, and strengthen your Church. I pray that I too might be making disciples, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth even as it was taken to me so many years ago. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and love. Help me settle in to the love and care of a Master who never lets go but continues to pursue me every step of every day. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen