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John 15:1-8 Abiding in the true vine

I pointed out last Sunday that the keeping of sheep would have been very familiar to the Palestinians of Jesus’ time and of course so too was the tending of vineyards. Genesis chapter nine verse twenty tells us that “noah, a man of the soil was the first to plant a vineyard.” Seeds of grapes have been found in ancient burial grounds and there are wall paintings in Egyptian tombs showing cultivation and harvesting of grapes dating from 1500 B.C. Olives,, figs and vines were characteristic of Mediterranean agriculture and geography, so Jesus is once again using a metaphor that everyone would have understood. As I have mentioned before my gardening skills are nonexistent so I knowless about pruning than about sheep. I do have some familiarity with the fruit of the vine (notably the red sort) but I do not propose to examine that this morning.

The vineyard is used in the Bible as a symbol of Israel very often in the Old Testament and recognised also in the New. Jesus begins then by telling his disciples that he is the true vine, once again affirming who He is and that he has come to restore Israel. he makes it clear also that His father is the owner, planter and nurturer of the vineyard. He then turns his attention to the future: Jesus knows that he will leave his disciples (Jesus also knows how this will happen) and like any departing leader he wonders what will happen to his people , he knows their fragility, he knows the trials they will undergo and that these will be against the background of his death and the disbelief of the people around that will surround them.

He gives them, and us an enduring word of advice couched in an image they can grasp and will never forget.

“Abide in me. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

It is worth thinking about that word “Abide.” Dictionary definitions include word such as to remain, to continue, to dwell, to remain faithful. The intimacy in which the branch lives with the vine is total. there is perhaps an irony here, after all from the disciples viewpoint Jesus is the one who will leave them yet here they are being exhorted to stay, to remain faithful.

they and we must remain in contact for the fruits of this will be Christian temper and disposition, Christ like life, conversation, devotion and designs. We cannot bear these fruits on our own. We must abide in Jesus.

And how do we do this? by being part of the worshipping community, by being fruitful branches together as part of the whole, by reading and studying the Bible allowing us to be cleansed and pruned by the word of God and above all by praying.

We must keep in contact - it is a dry branch that is separated from the root. To receive nourishment we need offer the activities of our daily lives in prayer: Before we visit a friend, before we have a conversation, before we make a decision let us just pray a little - even a very little, even a moment before because if we do and if this becomes a reflex our lives will be changed and the fruits we bear will be multiplied beyond our imagining.


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