servile acolytes | John 15.15-17
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:15-17 | ESV
I might have likened you to slaves – to servile acolytes – before, but that’s the last thing I want you to think about yourselves now. A servile acolyte nods her head but has no clue about the Master’s heart – she just does what she’s told, and she had better be quick and efficient about it! No. I speak “friend” over you because I’ve held back nothing from you. Everything my Abba has shown me I’ve shown you. You haven’t accepted me, elected me, opted for me; I’m the one who’s done the choosing – and I chose you and then positioned you, planting you right where you need to be to so that you can GO and GROW and bear fruit like nobody’s business, fruit that will be hanging around, lingering in people’s minds, the taste of it lingering on their lips for eternity. We’re talking wide open, full throttle connection right to your Abba’s arms – and from that vantage point, because of my connection with you and with him, you can ask for anything…and then watch me go to it for you. To recap the commanding word of the hour (I’ve said this already a time or two, yes?): love one another. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
From Robert Scott Stiner’s book Lessons from a Venetian Vinedresser:
After walking through and studying more vineyards that I can possibly remember, I have come to this conclusion: in northern Italy, there are, for the most part, two types of vineyards. There are what I call the rented vineyard and the family-owned vineyard.
First, the rented vineyard is one for which the landowner doesn’t do the work himself. He hires laborers to do the different stages of the work involved. These hired hands do a good job, and, for the most part, when the trimming is finished the vineyards are esthetically beautiful and as symmetrical as freshly trimmed, brushed cherry hedges on someone’s manicured lawn. When all the leaves have matured, they are really something to see, row after row of deep green hedge-like vines and branches. It doesn’t take long for the workers to come through and do the trimming of the branches. Depending on the size of the vineyard, there can be quite a few trimmers. Since the landowner pays for the work rendered, he wants the job done as quickly as possible, which only makes sense if you are running a business.
Many of these vineyards at harvest time have the grapes sold off to another producer. The landowner’s goal is to produce as many grapes as possible, because he gets paid by the overall weight of the harvest. In this type of vineyard, nothing gets wasted, as far as the fruit goes. The fruit can be very healthy or sickly. I’ve even seen some rotten fruit making its way into the wine press. If the landowner has the field as an investment, then the quality of the wine isn’t as important as the amount of wine produced.
Now the family-owned vineyard, specifically the one owned by the Bruzzo family, is cared for quite differently in many aspects when compared to the rented vineyard. In this vineyard there is only one vinedresser. As he prunes the branches, he has in mind what he is looking for as far as the end product of the fruit.
The vinedresser is consumed by his vineyard, giving himself over to it, ever tending to the branches’ needs, ever feeding them and ever encouraging them to grow.
His goal is to produce the best wine possible, even if it means sacrificing some of the lesser quality grapes. The wine will be produced for the vinedresser and if it is to be enjoyed by others, the works of it will bear his name on the bottles. The end product will reflect only that of the one who cared for the branches.
The trimming is done in a way that is best for the individual branches and not to cause the vineyard to have a certain appearance. No one else helps in this process because what is being established is an intimacy between the vinedresser and his branches in the vineyard. To care for the branches in such a way is to know exactly what each one needs and this vinedresser loves the process as much as the product…
As you contemplate your relationship with God, do you feel like you are expected to be more “servile acolyte” than “friend”? Why? What does “friendship” with God look like – particularly as we revisit the metaphor of the vine and vinedresser?
Abba, help me to hear your word spoken over me today: “Friend.” Show me what this means and help me to embrace it. Help me to embrace you as you embrace me this day. Through Christ.