by Christine Sine
It’s the day after Easter. We have all rejoiced in the wonder of the risen Christ and vowed to follow him through the rest of the year, but where do we go from here? Fortunately, Easter is not just a day, it is a season, a season that stretches from now until Pentecost. That gives us plenty of time to think about and act on our resolve to follow Christ with all that is within us.
As I think about this today, I find myself returning to the Last Supper where he says to his disciples in John 15:1-8:
15 “I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father.2 He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest.3 The words I have spoken over you have already cleansed you.4 So you must remain in life-union with me, for I remain in life-union with you. For as a branch severed from the vine will not bear fruit, so your life will be fruitless unless you live your life intimately joined to mine.
5 “I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches.[e]As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless.6 If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned.7 But if you live in life-union with me and if my words[f]live powerfully[g]within you—then you can ask[h]whatever you desire and it will be done.8 When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father! (John 15:1-8 TPT)
This story, though told on Maundy Thursday is in many ways an Easter story. In fact in The Voice translation, is the comment:
At a time when all of His disciples are feeling as if they are about to be uprooted, Jesus sketches a picture of this new life as a flourishing vineyard—a labyrinth of vines and strong branches steeped in rich soil, abundant grapes hanging from their vines ripening in the sun. Jesus sculpts a new garden of Eden in their imaginations—one that is bustling with fruit, sustenance, and satisfying aromas. This is the Kingdom life. It is all about connection, sustenance, and beauty. But within this promise of life is the warning that people must be in Christ or they will not experience these blessings. (The Voice John 15)
I have actually been thinking a lot about this over the last week. First because of the image above which is one of the illustrations in The Art of Holy Week and Easter by Sister Wendy Beckett but also because I have been watching Gardener’s World with Monty Don on Amazon Prime and last week he was talking about pruning his grape vines.
I was amazed to hear Monty Don say that the purpose of pruning is not so that we get as many bunches of grapes as possible, but rather so that we end up with a few large bunches of grapes from each vine. In other words, we prune so that there are less grapes not more. If we do this, the fruit will be bigger and tastier.
Wow, I thought. No wonder Jesus talks about pruning the fruitful branches not the fruitless ones. Fruitfulness is not about spreading our energy far and wide so that we produce as many bunches of grapes as possible. Rather, it is about producing a few large bunches of grapes that are healthy and sweet in flavour. I am sure this is something that Jesus’ disciples were well aware of. Some of them might even have kept grape vines. And this is definitely kingdom work. We have entered the new Eden, whose flourishing is dependent on us being fruitful members of Christ’s body.
So as we enter this Easter season full of ideas of how we want to see the life of Christ lived out in the future, this is important to remember – Jesus only prunes fruitful vines and Jesus does not want us to produce lots of little and probably tasteless, grapes but rather a few big tasty bunches of fruit.
Jesus goes on to say:
“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. 10 If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. 11 My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness!
12 “So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you. 13 For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends. (John 15:9-13)
Here on Godspace, we are starting a new theme for the Easter season Time for Love, and as I read this I realize how appropriate thinking about pruning is as a way to begin our new theme. We are pruned so that the sweetness of our fruit is the sweetness of love. We are pruned so that we are more effectively able to love each other deeply in the same way that Jesus has loved us.
So let’s begin this Easter season asking ourselves:
- Where am I most likely to bear fruit like big bunches of grapes, over the next year?
- What are the branches that Jesus wants to prune away so that they do not sap energy from what will become big, tasty fruit?
- In what ways would Jesus like to prune me so that the sweetness of his love flows more effectively from me out into the broken world in which we live.