During my childhood there were grapevines in the garden and we lived not so many kilometres from a significant winegrowing region. I remember the annual competition between the birds and me in consuming the ripening grapes! But I also remember my father pruning the vines. My task was to cut many of those canes into twenty centimetre lengths, or thereabouts, for them to be used as ‘firestarters’ in the wood stove in the kitchen or to heat the copper in the laundry on washing day. The rest of the prunings were simply burnt in a great and, to a young boy, glorious bonfire.
It’s easy to interpret “bearing fruit” in terms of good works but it’s the life that comes from Christ that is the fruit. Simply living in Christ is to “bear fruit”. Allowing the life of Christ to shape our own life is to “bear fruit”. In this weeks’s gospel passage Jesus goes on to talk about loving one another in the way that he has loved his disciples; this is “becoming [his] disciples”. It’s primary importance is within the context of the community of faith: it is essential to the unity of that community, essential to the unity and inseparability of the vine and the branches.
Reading this passage again I was struck by its connectedness to our action in gathering around the table of the Lord’s Supper. in the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving we sometimes use the words
“Blessed is the Holy One of Israel, Sovereign of all that is, who creates the fruit of the vine.” The fruit of the vine is not our doing it is God’s creation, God abiding and working in us. We symbolise that abiding in the sacrament of the Holy Communion. We eat the bread and drink the cup, itself the fruit of the vine, and feed on Christ in our hearts: we abide in him, and he in us.
Each time we gather share this meal we are again, as the branches of the vine, fed and nourished by the vine and offered healing, and wholeness life in its fullness – that our joy may be complete. In our bearing fruit, living the life of Christ living in us – in our life of “becoming disciples” – we offer the wholeness of Christ to others.
© Jeff Shrowder, 2012. More for Easter 5B…