I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:5-9
Yesterday I was sitting at a traffic light and as I looked around at my fellow commuters every single one of them had their faces down in some kind of device or cell phone. Every one of them! I thought to myself, ‘is this what we have become; a society of addicts to our electronic connection?’ Oh but I am certainly guilty of this too, having to have a honk from behind to alert me that the light is now green. Of course, I don’t check my cell while I’m moving (and you absolutely shouldn’t either!!), but the whole episode yesterday got me thinking about connection and relationship, not just with each other, but with Jesus too.
Jesus is speaking in John chapter 15 in agricultural terms as he often does because the people of that time lived their lives in the midst of agriculture. Jesus is simply saying that the essence of our individual lives- indeed of life itself is in Him. If we are disconnected from Him we lose out of the life-giving sap of the vine and we wither. Abide. Remain. These are the words Jesus uses to describe our connection with Him. When He says, “Abide in me” what comes to mind? Who/what is Jesus? He is peace. He is love. He is joy, faithfulness, tenderness, compassion. He is glorious, truthful, and full of life and light. He is hope. He is trustworthy and reliable. He will not fail you. This is who/what we are to abide and remain in. And yet there are times we find ourselves disconnected from any number of these qualities of Jesus. Depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, stress, and failure- all these characteristics common to the fallen human condition seem to knock on our doors daily. Christians are not immune to these things. Yet, when we face these enemies Jesus reminds us that we have a connection to the source of life in which Jesus is calling us to connect/remain/abide.
He tells us that if we abide in Him (even if we don’t feel like we do), “ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you”. Well, Publishers Clearing House has been sending me some literature, maybe the Lord could pull a few strings there… Definitely not what Jesus is saying. Remember He is talking about a vine. For the branch to ask something of the vine is to ask for life. The branch would ask for substance to flow and for fruit to be borne. The branch knows its life flows from the vine, so the branch would ask for anything that would bolster and elevate the vine to greater status. The stronger the vine, the more healthy the branches. Our asking should be in keeping with the purpose of the vine- to bear fruit in service to others.
Sisters and brothers, our cell phones and electronic devices can connect us to each other no matter where we are in the world. Likewise we are also connected to one another in the vine that is Christ. The next time you pick up your cell phone or tablet, or open the laptop to send a text or email, pray for your contact. Pray for connection- not just through the airways, but connection to the vine. Pray and ask Jesus to help us be more intentional about bearing the fruit of His life-giving Spirit. Abide in the Lord. Abide in His love. Remember that Jesus loves you today.