Abide in me as I abide in you. 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. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5; emphasis mine)
In Virginia, we are surrounded by a number of vineyards and wineries. Over the years, I have visited many and learned of the great efforts and loving, intentional care needed to help the plants prove fruitful. It is no accident that in Jesus’ own day without our modern agricultural skills Jesus spoke about our faith life in terms of a vineyard. Many people would have been familiar with them and the intensive work and oversight associated with them. The image of vineyard was common to Old Testament writings signifying safety, abundance, the people of Israel, as well as God’s harvest. Thus, Jesus used that same imagery, and bread and wine would become part of the sacraments Jesus would leave us; means of God’s grace.
Yet in John 15, Christ’s believers are invited to become intimately part of the vineyard. He is the vine, and we are the branches. His word and the gift of faith have already made us worthy to reside there. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is reported to use the Greek word for abide. It signifies that we are to do more than just stay with him. “Abide” (meinate) in John is used over and over to imply much more. Life springs from, stems from, arises from this relationship; a relationship that begins to bear fruit as soon as we say, “We believe.” God dwells in us, and the love which is God wants to grow and expand to fully bless us and others with a love that overflows. It is an image of intimacy, relationship, and abundance.
We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is most certainly true. Yet, for all those that grow tired from long hours at work, for those fatigued from dealing with strife or illness, for all those who hunger and thirst because of anything amiss in their life including sin, please remember the abundance Christ speaks of rarely if ever just grows on its own. Ultimately, it is a gift of the Spirit dwelling within our hearts, yet it helps for us to be intentional about our relationship with Jesus and his church. We must accept and cooperate with the grace offered us, for relationships deepen and mature over time shared with one another. So, all of us need to spend time together in worship, study, fellowship, and service. At home and work, we are richly blessed by caring for our own spiritual, emotional, and material needs, but even more blessed as we seek to care for and share faith with others.
These days, “Christian formation” is the phrase often bandied about for educational programs of the church. Like a potter with clay, God shapes our lives and future through such active, intentional times together. Perhaps it could rightly be called abiding in Jesus – a supernatural process of growth and new life rooted in Jesus while connecting us to one another. Yet such formation is ongoing. All we do and experience can become part of the process. Abiding in Jesus takes us out of the home, classroom, and sanctuary and boldly into the world!
Do you abide in Jesus? Does Jesus abide in you? If you have faith at any level, do not doubt that this is so. You are saved. Still, Jesus said he came that we may have life, and have it abundantly. Nurturing our faith and church, the days ahead might not necessarily be easy, but they can prove more fruitful – filled with Christ’s joy, peace and love.
Dare respond to his many invitations, and watch grace grow. “Abide in me. Follow me. Come, taste and see.”
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2014 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.