the true vine | John 15.1-3
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. John 15:1-3 | ESV
And so Jesus takes the talk to the streets, making his way towards the Garden, towards the hour. On this night unlike all other nights, this night of the four cups, of the fruit of the vine, he hands them a crucial, ancient image to carry forward…who knows, maybe they just passed a vineyard…
“The prophets of old pictured Israel as God’s vine…well, hear this: I am the true vine, the real vine, and my Abba is the earth-working vintner. And he’s not in this for the greenery; he’s looking for the grapes – grapes that will make the mother of all wines. When he sees a branch that’s not producing anything, he doesn’t just leave it, he lifts it up, off the ground, lifting and connecting it where it can grow with other branches; when he sees a branch bearing fruit, he relieves it of excess foliage, focusing, maximizing its energy and potential to produce more and better grapes – which is precisely what all my spoken words to you are intended to do: relieve you of excess foliage so you can grow more grapes.”
MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Jesus’ disciples were a diverse bunch, but there was one thing they all had in common:
They all grew up around vineyards.
They no doubt played in them as boys, helped work them as youths and adults (everyone gathered to bring in the harvest – it was a huge party for the whole community!). As Jesus leads them out of the upper room onto the path that would take him to Gethsemane and ultimately to Golgotha, he takes them to a vineyard.
This week’s reflections will be a little different. Rather than offering insights on each section of text, I would like to complement each section with a reading from Robert Scott Stiner’s book Lessons from a Venetian Vinedresser* – so we who have not grown up around vineyards or worked in them as these men would have can get a peek into one.
The rolling hills obscured my view from seeing very far ahead, but as I walked I heard someone singing and stopped long enough to recognize a man’s Italian voice not far ahead of me. I approached with caution. Slowly, I moved into position as if to look at a wild deer before it spots you and leaps off into the forest. Just as I got to the crest of the hill, down the same row and about fifty yards ahead of me, was a man. He didn’t see me, so I squatted down and watched him working. He was an Italian man that looked to be in his sixties with silver hair and a few darker traces still left from his younger days. He had on a long sleeve shirt, work pants and boots. Hanging out of his pockets were handfuls of those green rubber tubes and in his hand was a pair of small pruners. He worked alone in this vast vineyard…
My mind was reeling with excitement as I watched this man and for the first time I saw John chapter fifteen come alive before my eyes. Here was an old man singing to the vines as if to serenade them as he did the work that only he could do. Each branch he touched and ran his fingers along it; inspected and trimmed it in such a way that would cause it to bear the most fruit, the best fruit. He wasn’t in a hurry and the time this process took seemed to be irrelevant to this vinedresser. It was the end product, even if it would still be a long time away, which was of the utmost importance…
What do you find most impacting about this initial view of the vine and the vinedresser?
Abba, let me hear your song serenading the branches, serenading me. Let me feel and embrace your loving touch – whether in the form of caressing or pruning. Fill my heart with a deepened trust in you as the Vinedresser of my life. Through Christ.
* Unfortunately the book is out of print, but you can find used copies out there still on Amazon.com and other places.