John 15: 1-8

Father, Son, & Disciple.

The wild grape vine with its trailing branches is one of the lowest bushes and yet its fruit is highly prized, and was the favoured fruit of kings for thousand of years. The wild unattended vine is easily damaged producing very little and poor quality fruit. Storms, animals, birds and careless people can easily bruise and damage the trailing branches and the flowers on it that produce the fruit. With a sense for survival the trailing branches seek out a host, in order to cling, to climb, to be lifted up towards the sun and produce its fruit above the ground.

The grape vine is a plant that requires a lot of care. Wherever one sees a vineyard, the vines are planted in rows and its branches are picked up and supported off the ground. Each vine is given space and the farmer gently clears the weeds from around it so that each vine can grow to its fullest potential. Its branches need the most care of all to produce that prized fruit. They need continuous support and protection from damage. Through the slightest damage that branch can easily die.

Farmers in Israel at the time of Jesus planted their vineyards on the upper slopes of the hills above their grain crops to give them the best conditions possible. During Spring, the farmers would prune their vines giving attention to each branch. With sharp pruning hooks they would cut away the dead wood on each branch or whole branches. Pruning is important. It is through pruning that the remainder of the branch grows strong. As it is pruned again and again with every season it becomes larger and stronger needing less support and is then seen as part of the main vine. As the branches become stronger they are able to support larger and more clusters of grapes. The abundance of fruit brings joy to its owner and to all those who feed on it.
Many times in the Bible, a story about a vineyard has been used to describe the people of Israel, the people of God, to describe you and me. In this parable of the vine and its branches, Jesus points to us, to you and me as those weak, bruised, trailing branches in need of continuous care and support.

As a result of suffering, people everywhere try to find care and support for themselves. Governments and community leaders are elected by their promises to help all those in need. There are many communities, charities, and church groups who try to help mend the sickness and pain in our community. They mean well and there is a measure of success. Many people have received benefit from their assistance. And we can thank God for all those organisations and people who go out to help and care for others.

In the eyes of God, our way of life, our society is still deep in sin, still bearing the marks of bruising and ill health. Our human efforts to help each other can be far from being enough and often miss the mark.

God has installed a new way through Jesus Christ in whom we all can receive the care and support that we need. Jesus said that he is the true vine and the Father is the vinedresser. In the love and fellowship that they have with each other, Jesus as the true vine can provide abundantly to all its branches to all those who are attached to him. The select and careful pruning that God provides is part of the nurturing process provided to all the branches to strengthen them.

Who is eligible to be part of the true vine, to receive the love of Jesus? Everyone and anyone! The followers of Jesus, the ones who travelled and had fellowship with him were no different to us. They were a mixed bunch. There were some who were educated, others uneducated, poor and rich, fishermen, tax collectors, carpenters, farmers, sick and healed people, hungry and fed people, criminals, and sinners of every kind. They were all a part, a branch of Jesus the true vine.

The only thing that made them different to other people was their relationship with Jesus. They were simply with him. While they were with Jesus the nurturing and caring process affected their lives. Even the pruning, perhaps a reproach may have been painful at times but resulted in a healthier branch of the true vine. Jesus said to them, “You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.” Because of their fellowship with Jesus, they heard his words, words of encouragement, and at times of reproach. It was his words that continuously pruned and strengthened them to produce abundant fruit in the right season.

When we listen to the Word of God, to the words of Jesus we are like the disciples. We are in fellowship with Jesus, the true vine. Every time we listen to the Word of God, either from the Bible, on radio, from a friend or stranger, at church, or wherever and whenever, God is busy caring for us and gently pruning away the dead wood, and often while we are unaware. Jesus continuously calls us to abide in him, which means to feed on the Word of God. In this way Jesus can abide in us, and we become part of the true vine. The Word of God makes us clean and ready for new growth and abundant fruit.

What fruit will the true vine and its branches produce? Each vine variety produces its own distinctive fruit. There are a number of grape varieties like: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and others. Each fruit looks and taste different, and produces a different variety of wine. The fruit that Jesus, the true vine produces is also distinctive like no other. Jesus produces from its branches the fruit of love, peace, hope and joy. This is the fruit that is hard to find in our world, in our society and in many homes. The fruit of love, peace, hope and joy can be found in Jesus Christ, the true vine. This fruit brings joy to God the Father, to Jesus the Son, to all who are attached to him, and to all who come to feed on the fruit.

Jesus provides life. This life comes to all those who are in fellowship with him, who are attached to him, and who come to him. There is no better place to go for care and support than to go to Jesus. Have fellowship with Jesus, listen to him, and discover the difference in your life. Then, let your life filled with the fruit of Jesus, bring love, peace, hope and joy to the lives of others around you.

Amen.

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