6 May 2012

John 15:1-8

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower." (v. 1)


Until I visited my first vineyard I had never realised how labour intensive growing vines could be! There's the right type of soil, the best shoots, the pruning and the tying to frames to encourage growth and to position the ripening grapes to best catch the sunlight. And don't forget the weeding, the checking, the watering and the insect control. But most of all the pruning - a delicate and persistent task.

I determined never to attempt vine growing in my own garden - I much prefer the 'bung it in and hope for the best' approach!

The idea of the vine as a symbol of God's people is an old one reaching back into the Old Testament. Psalm 80:8-18 speaks of a vine brought out of Egypt and planted in the Promised Land (the land promised by God to Moses and the Israelites - Exodus 3:17) and many of the prophets talk about vines in describing the behaviour of the people and the kingdom of Israel (Hosea 10:1 uses the vine image to depict a corrupt nation walking away from God and in Micah 4:4 it is a symbol of hope for the future).

Jesus here is calling himself the "true vine" - the embodiment of the people and the kingdom.

A grape vine left to its own devices will run riot, growing into its own light, developing extra shoots and branches in a haphazard way and basically killing itself off. Without the sometime brutal intervention of a caring and knowledgeable gardener the vine will turn into useless dead branches with no harvest.

Jesus encourages his listeners to focus their living, to be prepared to be guided into the best places and best position for them to provide good, clean and useful fruits for the glory of God and the service of their communities. It is appealing to see ourselves rooted into God's garden and even to envisage ourselves as bringing out a good harvest for God but less appealing to see the gardener standing there with the secateurs at the ready!

Pruning, when it comes, may be brutal and painful cutting away our worthless traits and habits. But it allows the light to come through the excess and shine - so promoting healthy growth, new shoots and a good harvest.

To Ponder

  • Examine yourself honestly before answering the question: How prepared am I to be pruned for and by God?
  • What fruit is apparent to others in the way you live your life?
  • How can you make better use of the fruit that you have been given?

Bible notes author

The Revd Una McLean

Una is a Methodist minister currently working in North Wales. Before becoming a minister she worked as an occupational therapist for 20 years in fields as varied as elderly care, adult mental health and paediatrics.