The Branches and the Vine

“apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Living Christian faith is not a solitary activity. It may be tempting to imagine that we can control our own lives, make our own way, and then receive some kind of blessing from God after we have successfully forged our own destiny. But faith has everything to do with our relationships with God and each other. If we insist that we will have everything our own way, we may find ourselves in possession of very little. We need others as we live the Christian life, and others need us. Most importantly, we need our Lord.

In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of a vine and its branches to teach us about our connectedness with him and each other. “I am the vine,” he says to his disciples, “you are the branches.” The branches that abide in the vine will flourish and bear much fruit. The branches that are broken off from the vine will die in isolation from the source of their life.

So Jesus invites us to abide in his love and be fruitful, “because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As we abide in Jesus’ love and flourish, God the Father is glorified. Like branches of the one vine, we can stand together and know the fullest life together. We know God best with others. When even two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, he is present with us (Matt. 18:20).

Sometimes we may be surprised as we discover Christ in others. The Rule of St. Benedict advises that it is possible to find Christ in the unexpected guest who needs hospitality. “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, who said: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Matt. 25:35).” Benedict advises that the Christ also may be found in the ailing person who needs care. God’s guidance may be discerned in the words of even the youngest member of a community.

Although Benedict was providing specific guidance for the common life of monastic communities in the 6th century, the words of his rule offer helpful guidance for all kinds of Christians who share a common life, including those of us who are members of parish churches. If we are open to finding Christ in others, and if we listen to them with an open heart, we can discover God’s love present for us in daily life. We can abide in God’s love and bear much fruit.

Look it Up

See Hymn 576, especially the refrain: “God is love, and where true love is, God himself is there.” Also see The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53, The Reception of Guests.

Think About It

How do the people you know reflect God’s love to you? How does your love for God show in your relationships with others?


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