Sunday’s sermon was interrupted by a health problem and the audio contains the prayer regarding that.
I want to do something different today. I want to let the poetry of our scripture surround us, surround the message, let the poetry of scripture challenge us, change us, shape us. David Whyte once said that poetry is the language for which we have no defense. It permeates our souls, it soaks into our psyche. I suspect that Jesus spoke in parables, stories and poetic images because he knew that our intellect, of which we are so proud, can keep our hearts sheltered, armored, and untouched, but poetry transcends our intellect, it reaches into those places where we tremble to stand with God, into those spaces where we fear that if God really touches us, really shows up, everything will be changed and we both long for that and fear it.
So I am not going to give you some intellectual rationale behind vines and vineyards, instead, listen to the poetry of the heart, of God’s heart, of God’s love for you;
The Vine and the Branches
15 1-3 “I am the true Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
Ah, but the pruning hurts, doesn’t it? We cling to outmoded ways of being, we invest ourselves in a certain way of being, or growth and we don’t want to let it go, no matter what. We cling to it as if it were the only way, the only thing, we do not fear change as much as we fear loss, still the words whisper a deeper invitation
Live in me as I live in the Father. You were built for connection, for relationship, so don’t try to go it alone. Don’t injure your soul, letting it become dry and brittle. You were created for a full, rich, juicy life, one filled with sweat and blood, with tears and cries of joy and sorrow. Don’t withhold yourself from me, take the leap, jump into life with both feet and dare to dream great, big, incredible dreams. Don’t stay frozen on the sidelines, but join the game, dance the dance, and let your heart be broken open a hundred, a thousand times.
4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
Make your home in God. Abide in God, dwell in God and let everything be colored and conditioned by this act,this choice. Let God touch your heart knowing it will change everything; that it may send you into the streets of Calcutta or Africa, into the streets of Philadelphia, Portland, or even those narrow streets close by, the ones we don’t look into too deeply, but rather avert our eyes as we pass on by. Make your home in God knowing that when God lives in you fear will be driven out and with that fear gone common sense may leave too! Know that when God lives in you, your heart will be torn apart with love of neighbors you don’t even know and you may find yourself walking into places you’ve not yet heard of with the simple message that God loves you and I know you just needed to hear that today.
You may find yourself sharing from your store of wealth, lifting others out of poverty, changing their lives, giving their children a chance, an opportunity, restoring to them the justice that they have cried out for in the dark of their night. And all of this might be scary, it might be frightening, but when God lives in you and you in God there aren’t any limits to what you might do or where you might go, so take heart and do it anyway.
5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
God, our source and our sustenance, feeding us from within, filling us with all good things and helping us raise our face toward the light. Intimate and organic, deep and personal, this relationship which lives in us, which feeds us as a mother feeds her child, organic and intimate. All that is cut off becomes dried and brittle,a false start, a wrong path, misguided growth that soon withers and falls, soon to be forgotten as blooms form and
Be grafted on to the true vine, sink your roots deep within and know that you are kept, sustained, and the harvest will be abundant and neither do you need to hold on to it. Just as a vine does not produce grapes for its own benefit, seeking to feed itself off itself, so we are not called to produce a harvest which we will store and keep for ourselves, but to feed the next generation, to plant seeds in good soil. Know that your sustenance comes from God and trust in that.
9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
Know that you are loved, wholly and completely and have faith in that; let that love drive out all fear and bring all that is within you to fruition. But keep to the way of Jesus, keep yourself rooted and grounded in love, in gratitude, in compassion. Do not withhold even the smallest part of yourself, but let yourself surrender wholly and completely to God. Let yourself, your life, be pruned so that there is gracious room for God to live within you. Do not let yourself be so overcome with details and cares of the day that you do not have time for God, cut away all that would distract you so that you may come home, at last, to God, come home again, and again, every day come home. Carve out that space in your busy, busy life,
11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
Because you are loved, so deeply loved and God’s desire for you is joy, full, abundant, mature joy. The way to this joy is love, to abide in love, to commit to love, to love in difficult and good times. Stay with one another in love through the most difficult times. This will change you, this will draw out of you the deepest beauty, the most exquisite rapture. It won’t be easy, love is not that simple. But do it because God has become flesh, moved in beside you and called you to this love, because God insists on love. We are done with secrets but there is no end to the depths of God’s love, so let that mystery engage you.
Allow yourself and your life to be pruned and shaped not for some abstract idea of what is good or pure, but rather that joy and love might live in you, might flourish in you. All day long the stresses of life will pull you by the hand, drag you this way and that, saying this is important, this needs your attention, you must get this done and this and this…there is no joy and no love in being so overgrown and over scheduled and over occupied, carve yourself a space in which to dwell and abide in God.
We prune to create space, to keep the overgrown brush from killing out the more tender shoot, to allow space for something new to come, to allow the shape and beautiful form of what is growing to be revealed.
16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.
Abiding in God, resting in God, even a moment of being touched by God, knocked off your horse or lifted in a moment of glorious contact, changes everything. It’s dangerous it swells in your heart and your head and you might find yourself wandering through foreign lands preaching or healing. You might end up in Calcutta or Africa, you might find yourself in the downtown streets of Boston living with the homeless, or you might find yourself standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter or the Standing Rock Tribe as they oppose a pipeline being installed right through their sacred land. It might, in other words, disrupt your cozy life which is fine and beautiful and set you off on a crazy, scary, wild adventure. I think sometimes, that there is a part of us that wants to believe those days are over. The days of radical proselytizing and carrying the love of God into dangerous places and we can therefore reside in our cozy homes (I so love a cozy home!) especially in the fall when the air is crisp and I just want to sit by the fire with a cup of tea and a good book. and just know that everything is okay.
But we are rooted and grounded in love and with all things there are times when we are called to take a rest, we are called to Sabbath as well, but we are rooted and grounded in love and anything that deviates from it withers and dies. So be rooted and grounded in love, rest when you need to but know you are called to be out in the world, bringing good fruit, bringing all that you are. How incredible that God looked at the world and said it needs one of you, and you. How incredible. Be rooted and grounded in love. Grow from that. Let your life be fruitful, in all times and in all places.