There’s an old expression that: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You need the right connections to get ahead. In this week’s gospel Jesus assures us that we’ve got the right connections. We’re not on our own. We’re connected. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. He abides in us, and we in him.
“Abide” is such a lovely, arcane word. It conveys a sense of timeless commitment. It says that we not only live in the Lord, but we have a long-term, iron-clad lease. Jesus is not the flavor of the month. He’s here to stay. And we are bound together so tightly, that in time it becomes hard to tell vine from branch. Our every thought reflects his will. Our every action serves his purpose.
We know that’s where we ought to be. It’s where we want to be. But how do we get there? To begin with, Jesus has done the hard work. He took our every sin with him to the cross. In him we are redeemed. But our state of redemption is not a passive one. In scripture we have learned that our salvation is a gift from God. We did not earn it. We cannot pay for it. But just as often Jesus tells us that we must partner in his work. We must witness his love. With redemption comes obligation.
Our first obligation is to know God. It is the prerequisite to loving him, to praising him, to serving him. And like any other task we take seriously, knowing God begins with the basics. It starts with reading, studying and meditating on the Bible. And that takes time, commitment and discipline. That investment in knowing the Lord leads inexorably to abiding in the Lord … an intimate and sustaining presence, a serene sense of “connectedness” with the will and the work of Jesus.
Our connection with Christ was never meant to be a nodding acquaintance on holidays. In the starkest terms possible, Jesus tells us our connection comes with an obligation to be fruitful. At times being fruitful can seem such an impossible stretch. We feel so spiritually needy. Our faith can be so frail. But we are not on our own. That is the beauty of being a branch. Over time we draw health and vigor from the vine. With the turn of each season, the fruits of grace and Christian sanctity swell within us, ’til they burst forth to the glory of God … in worship and fellowship, in service and stewardship, in love and in joy. And so we pray: I am yours, Lord. Abide in me. Nourish me. Make me fruitful in your service.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.
Image: By Anonymous. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons