Today’s Bible reading
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. – John 15:1-11
More thoughts for meditation
One of the most challenging themes for persons living in concert with the creativity of God is how to attend to present passions while releasing those tasks that are completed. How can we honor the past that we carry with us while not letting it define the future? How can we live in a well-ordered psychological house without accumulating too much stuff in the basement? Life in the Spirit is a flow of engagement and release, of attachment and detachment, of commitment and relinquishment. If we cling to the past, continuing to serve yesterday’s passions, we might neglect to make adequate space in our hearts for the next season of life and service. As we listen to God’s creative beckoning, we need to ask, “What must I release, in order to make way for what is calling now?”
Growth, fruiting and decline are all acknowledged in the Lord’s powerful metaphor for how to relate to him in today’s reading. We are branches of Christ, the living vine. We have seasons of growth and productivity. Then, branches wither and die. Fruit that is a gift to the world is produced through a flow of the Spirit into us. Without that life-giving flow, we cease to produce fruit.
Many times this word is reduced to meaning, “You’re either attached to the vine or you will die.” That is true. But the word also describes how we have an active gardener working on our behalf for the best expression of our life. The Lord’s picture of a spiritual vineyard reflects the creation as a whole where there are seasons of preparation, growth, harvest and then a period of fallowness. Sometimes branches die. We cooperate with the Gardener and move with the seasons. When the time is right, we let go of the task that was life-giving to us and to the world and move on. We don’t want to prop up the old tasks, the old ways of being rather than allowing seasons of change to occur. Senators Feinstein and Grassley are entering their late 80’s. Was there really no place to grow?
Suggestions for action
Pray: Thank you for the invitation to abide in your love and the attention you give to my joy.
This exercise about creative relinquishment could take a long time. So just praying the prayer may be good enough for now.
Start with a review of what is emerging for your discernment (Monday’s exercise was designed to help), or just use this as a way to review where your life is going right now. Find yourself securely in the Vine as you meditate on today’s reading. Then ask four basic questions:
- What is growing well and producing fruit?
You may be discerning about a particular transition you sense or reviewing your whole life. Be generous. What feels good or fulfilling? You might like to do this whole exercise as a picture: your branch attached to the Vine.
Take a little break between all the questions after you have written about them.
- What is growing well but could use attention (pruning) to be more fruitful?
On your branch of the vine, what needs pruning? The Chief Gardener is probably already asking for cooperation. You might need to rearrange your daily schedule to spend more time in prayer and study. You might need to spend less time volunteering for the coalition so you can raise your toddler. You may need to get a better job so you can stabilize you life structure.
- What is “dead” wood?
Dead is in quotation marks, since in the Lords ecosystem, when a seed falls into the earth and “dies” it rises to new life and bears much fruit (John 12:24). Creative relinquishment happens in the context of resurrection and eternal life, not in a realm of scarcity and decline. So consider what is no longer growing. What is merely a habit? Where have attitudes or convictions become hard-hearted instead of energizing? What elements of you have outlived their usefulness? What activities and habits of the heart could be tossed into the “consuming fire” in a celebration of release?
- What is ready to sprout?
All earthly life grows through seasons of renewal. What is ready to be born in and through you? What kind of space do they need to flourish? By this time you may have a whole new branch growing from your branch of the Vine. You may need to write an action plan to implement what is being revealed. Good thoughts need good plans: impression without expression might lead to depression.