Belle Plaine, Kansas - Men's Charge leaders Doug and David outside the United Methodist Church
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine." - Jesus (John 15:1-8, v 4)
Yesterday evening I returned home from my two-day trip to Kansas. I'd been invited to keynote at a "Men's Charge" event that bought Jesus-followers from several churches together for fellowship, learning, and mutual encouragement.
These guys were living the spiritual truth that "No branch can bear fruit by itself." The leaders came from the Belle Plaine United Methodist Church, the Belle Plaine Church of Christ, and the Belle Plaine Baptist Church.
In this particular community the enthusiastic participation of those three churches in an "I am the vine, you are the vine, we are the vine together..." event was explained to me as nothing short of a "Major Miracle."
Jesus would have said something like this. "No duh! My body is a connectional system; you need me, and the way the Father designed things you also need each other. To abide in me, to 'remain' in me, you must stay connected to the vine; end of story."
Back in Pensacola we had a troublesome wisteria that kept cropping up all over. One of its favorite venues was the telephone pole on the edge of our property; it also liked the adjacent fence. The thing was relentless.
Every once in a while I'd go out with huge pruning shears and cut the vine carefully where it first emerged from the ground. In a few hours the wisteria would droop, the turn brown. A few days later I could easily pull it all down.
Jesus wants us to understand that we are as vitally connected to him - and to one another - as the fruit is to a vine. Without his sustaining grace we simply wither and die.
The church is part of the system of sustenance that keeps us connected and nourished. When I say "The Church" I don't mean my denomination or yours. The Church is known as "The Body of Christ" because Jesus ministers to the world through the church, and it's through us that the vine continues to grow and bear fruit.
Growth is part of the definition of life; Jesus is unequivocal regarding this. And life is never stagnant, quiescent, or listless. Rot and decay have no place in the vine. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
"Check out the fruit," Jesus said; "That's how you're going to know my disciples."
PRAYER: You are the true vine, dear Lord. Help us to recognize our deep thirst for your nurture, and then fill us with your grace. Amen.
Picture: That's me, with my new friend and brother, Doug Hisken