RCL Year B Easter 5
Acts 8:26–40, Psalm 22:24–30, I John 4:7–21, Saint John 15:1–8

In the Gospel today, Christ begins with what people know. People know vines and branches, and they know the intimate connections between them. They know farming and the need to cultivate and to prune to produce an ample crop. So they understand and are persuaded when Christ says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.”[1]

The chilling thing, the scary thing, in this Gospel you find in Christ’s absolute insistence on collaborative effort. Vines and vinegrowers work together. Branches are healthy and productive when they are part of the whole vine. Jesus says, “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.”[2] He says that people who wish to have things their own way are in for a surprise. Rugged individuals who will not share responsibility and reward are going to have trouble finding their place in the harmonious relationship of the vinegrower, the vine, and the branches. Jesus continues, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”[3] I hope you noticed something. Christ is saying that the needs of those who abide in him will be met, but, beyond that, they will be occasions for the glory of the whole enterprise: the glory of the Father as well as the others.

You might think me single-minded, because I mention being a healthy and growing parish whenever I can. Another way of saying the same thing is to say that we control our Parish; now we have to function in the way that allows it to grow. This is a goal that requires collaboration: vines, vinedressers, branches, and leaves—all working together to make our Parish a coherent and sensible place, a place where people can serve God in worship and serve God in the service of others. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”[4]

[1] Saint John 15:1-2.

[2] Saint John 15:4-5.

[3] Saint John 15:7-8.

[4] Saint John 15:8.