A Gospel reading such as today’s is a timely reminder to us that we are connected.
We live in a world of increasing disconnect. Social media can easily make us into thoughtless individuals, with our need to comment on everything and stay in our own tight bubbles of safety, shunning any people or views or teachings that somehow make their way to us from the outside. Country leaders seem to want to close themselves off from others. They look after themselves and not anyone outside. They shun immigrants even if they are fleeing their country to save their lives, and by their actions we begin to think the same.
The last year has taught us much about living in Society, about living together, principally because we have had to live a much more isolated life than usual. Coronavirus has forced us to become more individualistic, more hermetic, and yet it has challenged us to seek a better standard of community. We seek this better life, this world of inclusively and tolerance and good community, yet it is difficult to find it when we’re not exactly sure what we should be looking for.
Anybody who follows the Gospel message knows what they are looking for. They are seeking to be the fruit on the Vine, to be extensions of Christ. We know what Christ was like from the Gospels, and, through his teaching we are challenged to live in just the same way. For us Christians, to live like Jesus would be to create a perfect habitat and ecosystem for humanity and for all life on earth. Nobody said that this would be easy. The greatest difficulty is aligning the ways of Christ with our own hearts. If it makes us feel better, we can blame secular life and ungodliness, but that doesn’t tackle anything. The real difficulty in living as fruit of the Vine is accepting Christ into our own hearts. It is our own hearts that throw up the greatest barriers, sometimes most of all when we think there are none to navigate.
We run the risk of turning Jesus into some kind of docile imaginary friend, someone who doesn’t challenge us. That will not do. No, we should instead learn about Christ from his ministry on earth, from his interactions with others, from his choice of who to keep company with, from his excuses to keep loving us even when we fail over and over again. If we, as his fruits, do not continue in this attitude of selfless love, then we shall be bitter fruits, self-serving fruits that have no purpose on the vine.
To live in community, then, is a beautiful and life-giving thing, and we can do it. But it requires the selflessness and the love that Christ came to teach us. We pray, then, that our Church communities will be places of Christ’s love, places in which we serve each other for the benefit of all, and where we, through grace, become worthy children of God, worthy fruits of the one true vine. Amen.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 15:10.
Glory to you, O Lord
Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes
to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away
– he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ