Aloha Friday Message – April 27, 2018 – Heard It in the Grapevine

1817AFC042718 – Heard It in the Grapevine

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Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! This message is related to a post from 2012, and the story I will refer to in this post can be found HERE. It is also for the Fifth Sunday after Easter. The readings for this coming Sunday, April 29, 2018, can be found HERE.  Now, let’s see what the Holy Spirit has in store for us today.

 

John 15:5 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.

 

Suppose I know that you really love grapes. I decide I want to give you a memorable present, so I go to a vineyard being pruned and gather up a few of the pruned branches, and wrap them in a pretty velvet bow as a friendship present to you. “Not much of a present,” you say. “What am I supposed to do with these? They’re already wilting.” You get the idea. You do not define your life, or anyone else’s, by the fruit that can’t be grown on pruned branches. Like the artist who throws away everything he does not need in a chunk of marble so that only the figure remains, the branches that are pruned are discarded because they allow the true purpose of the vine to become manifest. The vine bears more fruit after it is pruned.

If you are hoping for a very fruitful vineyard, for example, you have to prune the vines. It’s not enough to cut out the sections that have dried up. You also have to cut back the good parts, the living parts, the fruitful parts so that they will become even more fruitful. In verse 2 of this same chapter, Jesus said, “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes, so that it bears more fruit.” What is it like when God prunes away the deadwood in our lives? It is like laying down that winter coat in the desert (the 2012 story I mentioned). And what is it like when God prunes the live branches? It is like the times we know our lives are reshaped, refocused, and poised for growth; it is when we learn by yielding to the hand of God. It is when our lives become more and more bountiful by being nurtured in the Word of God. That is what we focus on today, being nurtured in The Word.

Where is YOUR Bible?

What comes to mind when we read that description, “The Word of God.” For most of us, it brings to mind the image of our Bible. I wonder, sometimes, where Bibles reside in people’s homes. Many of us have a “Family Bible.” It’s usually a big, heavy, ornate volume with places to record important events in life like baptisms, and marriages, and births. Because it’s so cumbersome, it takes some effort to drag it out and use it – so it basically is “on display.” It might even look like this one a little bit. I have Bibles at home that go back decades. In my “200 section” in our home library I have a Bible I received from my parents when I was in high school. There’s a Red-Letter New Testament with gopher wood covers given to me by a classmate my senior year. Next to my workspace in the living room I have a Bible Crucita bought for me, and right next to my computer I have the New International Version (NIV) Study Bible; my dad gave it to my mom, and my mom passed it to me many years later. In the same shelf I have the NABRE (I pronounce the like “neighbor’) – the New American Bible – Revised Edition. This is the “official Bible” of the Roman Catholic Church in America. Lastly, I have software that contains literally hundreds of translations in dozens of languages. It’s called BibleWorks. I use it all the time – in fact, the NIV, NABRE, and BibleWorks get used almost daily here. Now, what if I told you that none of these fit the definition of what I mean when I say “being nurtured in The Word?”

“Huh?” Let’s go back to the Key Verse again. It starts out by saying, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” And what about John 1:1? In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. If we are to be nurtured in The Word, we are to be nurtured in Jesus, the Christ of God. Next he says, “Those who abide in me and me in them bear much fruit.” We need to be in the Vine. That’s why my little present of a bunch of pruned grape branches is so useless. They are no longer part of the vine; there may be parts of the vine where life is still happening, cells are dividing, photosynthesis is proceeding – but there will be no fruit! Without the vine, there is no possibility for fruit – or even life. A pruned vine might stay caught in the branches and be near the vine, but it’s not being nourished in the vine. If we are reading the Bible, are we “in the Vine?” It doesn’t really matter how many translations we have, or how many studies we read, if we are not in Jesus, if we are not intimately connected with him, if we cannot share back and forth between the root to the fruit. I can read and write and talk and sing about Jesus all day long; but, if I am not living in him and he is not living in me, all of that is just noise. And why is that?

Let’s examine the last phrase of the Key Verse for today; it says, “because apart from me you can do nothing.” That makes sense, doesn’t it? Belovéd, reading the Bible really is not the same as living in Jesus. The words from The Word certain can, and do, nourish our souls, but without that personal, nurturing, life-giving connection with The Vine, our studies cannot be fruitful. I could write these posts until my fingers fall off, and you could read them until your eyes glaze over, but without both of us being branches in The Vine, it’s like a broken pencil – pointless.

We often have a penchant for pointless things. For some of us there are so many things in life we cling to as if our life depended on it (like that winter coat in the desert). Sin, painful relationships, ill will in families, bad habits. NONE of these are things we need. Let our dead branches be cut out and our living branches be pruned. Friendship, faith, knowledge, charity, wisdom. ALL of these are things you need. Remain in the vine so the vine remains in you. He has loved you with an everlasting love (↔ Music Link). He has created you and shaped you to be uniquely his, and to resemble him closely in your life on Earth. Why should we do this? Look at verses 7-9: 7. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my Love.

It is so clear what he means when he says I am the Vine (↔ Music Link). Can the root produce the fruit? Can the branch yield fruit without The Vine? Can the vinedresser say to the vineyard, “You know how to grow. Do it by the book.”? No. God himself makes sure that his vineyard yields its fruit in due season, for, as Jesus says in John 15:1-2 – I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. The Father is the vinegrower, Jesus is The Vine, we are the branches. When Jesus says removes, the Greek word is καθαίρει (kathairei) {kath-ah’-ee-rei} – to cleanse and remove filth, impurity, and death (like deadwood), and to purge that which does not enable life. Branches without fruit are purged and removed. Branches that can produce are pruned to become even more fruitful. Belovéd, stay in The Vine. Remain in his Love for has he says, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” I love you, too! I stay in The Vine to be of The Vine for him and for you.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

More music? Sure! Use this (↔ Music Link) or THIS (↔ Music Link)

 

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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