Please join and invite your family and friends to join to celebrate and give thanks at the PARISH EUCHARIST FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER at 10:00am on 2nd May
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John 15: 1-8
As Jesus gathered with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion he tried to prepare them for their life on the other side of his death and resurrection. That’s the context for today’s Gospel passage, which is part of what is sometimes called ‘the farewell discourse.’ Those first disciples must have wondered where they would ‘be’ afterwards and what would become of them? Jesus told them that they should continue to ‘abide’ or ‘be’ with him. The kind of ‘abiding’ that Jesus was speaking about was far more than hanging out or sharing a place somewhere; it is deeply relational. Jesus was saying that he would continue to ‘abide’ or ‘stay’ or ‘live’ both in God and in and with those who followed him and they should ‘abide’ or ‘stay’ or ‘live’ in and with him.
Yet, just how could Jesus and the disciples ‘abide’ together after the crucifixion? To answer that question Jesus used a beautiful organic image where God is the vine grower, Jesus is the vine, and his disciples are the branches. Clearly, Jesus’ message is that when people abide/live in him and follow in his way then they also live in God and God lives in them. The image would have been familiar to those first hearers because in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) God is portrayed as tending the vine which is his ‘chosen people’ - the people of Israel. So, here the Gospel message is that Jesus is the true vine which God cultivates and that those who wish to follow him should make sure they are part of that vine which is the ‘new’ universal people of God - ‘abiding in Christ’ - in order that they may receive his life-giving sustenance and bear fruit.
It might be tempting to stop there and rest in the beauty of that imagery and ‘abide’ happily ever after. But one of the things that those first disciples had learned during their journeying with Jesus was that he ‘abided’ or ‘stayed’ or ‘dwelt’ in all kinds of places and among all kinds of people, especially among those in need, and that he healed the sick and fed the hungry. The disciples came to understand that this meant that those who are part of Christ’s life and work - who are sustained by the vine which is Christ - are going to be like him in bearing fruit, serving and making a difference for the well-being of others.
Jesus also recalled for his followers - as every gardener knows - that branches must be cut back from time to time if they are to produce the richest fruit. This last point may be hard to accept at times, but it is an important reminder for disciples who, like Jesus, would themselves face hardships, sacrifices and even death.
After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection his disciples - then and now - would remember the many places in which he stayed and the people with whom he stayed, and his invitation to ‘abide’ in and with him. The message is that if we are to be his true disciples then we must learn to carry on his mission by serving others and bearing fruit, even in the face of struggle and failure, and that this is how we come to know that the risen one remains and continues to live in us and we live in him. God bless.