Jesus the Vine: Abiding = Loving

Deep Abiding Love by Megan Aroon Duncanson

John 15:4-6, 9-10, 12-13
(NRSV, emphasis added)

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. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned…. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Psalm 15:1-5 (NRSV)
O Lord, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
and speak the truth from their heart;
who do not slander with their tongue,
and do no evil to their friends,
nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
but who honor those who fear the Lord
who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest,
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.
Those who do these things shall never be moved.

1 John 4:16 (NRSV)
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

“I do not understand how the teaching of the Spirit is given—where or how I can discern His voice. If the Teacher is so unknown, no wonder the promise of His teaching about the abiding does not help me much.” Thoughts like these come from an error which is very common among believers. They imagine that the Spirit, in teaching them, must reveal the mysteries of the spiritual life first to their intellect, and afterwards in their experience. And God’s way is just the contrary of this. What holds true of all spiritual truth is especially true of the abiding in Christ: we must live and experience truth in order to know it. – Andrew Murray

You, then, are my workers. You have come from me, the supreme eternal gardener, and I have engrafted you onto the vine by making myself one with you. Keep in mind that each of you has your own vineyard. But everyone is joined to the neighbors’ vineyards without any dividing lines. They are so joined together, in fact, that you cannot do good or evil for yourself without doing the same for your neighbors.
–Catherine of Siena

This hymn text was written at the request of a pastor friend many years ago. She wanted a hymn which expressed the themes of John 15. I share it today remembering her; thankful for her friendship, love and encouragement back when I was first beginning to write. I pray you would feel the abiding love of God and others this day and every day. – Lisa <><

You Are the Source
a hymn text based on John 15:1-8
Meter- 86.86 with Refrain (CM with Refrain)
Suggested Tune- GIFT OF FINEST WHEAT (United Methodist Hymnal #629)

You are the Source of grace and life,
The Root of all that’s true
You join us to this mystery
As we abide in You

Dear children of this fallen sod
The Gard’ner knows our need
In grafting us to Christ the Vine
We gain eternity (Refrain)

For we are branches of the Vine
Joined cross both time and place
No fruit is grown apart from Christ
For what is grown needs grace (Refrain)

You prune our lives with utmost care
So we might bear more fruit
The fruit of justice, peace, and love
Lived out in all we do (Refrain)

Eternal Vine, most Holy Seed
Sewn as Your willing Son
So intertwine Your family vine
That we might be as one (Refrain)

You are the Source © May 19, 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form. Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to original music.

For a devotion based on this passage, click here

Click here for a powerful and beautiful reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Gardner God based on a passage with similar themes, Luke 13:6-9

For more information on the use of the art, scripture translation and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd 2

Isaiah 49:16 by Justin Ulmer

Over and over again in the scriptures, the compassion and mercy of God are compared to the bravery and sacrifice of a good shepherd. Much of the time, sheep are able to follow the shepherd. But there are times on the journey when the shepherd must carry them. Maybe they’re too young to navigate a dangerous river. Maybe they’re lost or injured. Maybe they’re too ill to make it home on their own. – Lisa <><

Isaiah 40:11 (NRSV)
He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Where do you pasture your sheep, O Good Shepherd, you who carry on your shoulders the whole flock? For it is but one sheep, this entire human race whom you lift onto your shoulders. Show me the place where there are green pastures, let me know restful waters, lead me out to nourishing grass and call me by name so that I can hear your voice, for I am your own sheep. And through that voice calling me, give me eternal life.
-Gregory of Nyssa

Psalm 28:8-9 (NRSV)
The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
O save your people, and bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them forever.

Psalm 23:1-3 (NRSV)
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

By calling himself the Good Shepherd, Jesus accepted his role of being a pastor to those around him. John 14:6 is one if the most pastoral verses in the Gospels, if we can read it apart from the who is “in” and who is “out” interpretation that has come to dominate it. As our Good Shepherd, Jesus offers us three things every sheep needs. First, we need to know the path that leads to God (“green pastures and still waters”)–so he is the Way. Second, we need to feed on the safe and nourishing food (“the table”–table land)–so he is the Truth. Third, we need to live (“rod and staff” to fend off enemies)–so he is the Life. John 14:6 takes us right into Psalm 23. Way, Truth, Life—good shepherding.  “The Lord is my shepherd.”  Thank you, Jesus.
– Steve Harper, Jesus the Pastor

Ezekiel 34:15-16 (NRSV)
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Luke 15:3-7 (NIV)
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. ‘I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

The Taste of Death
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

I am held. I need to be held. I will be held.
I am held captive by downfall and falsehood
or I am held by Christ
whose outstretched arms free me from fear and captivity

Who holds me? Death or Christ?

Great Love bends low to us
Suffers with us and for us
Tastes death so we might be free

What does death taste like?
Amniotic fluid and stable hay
Breast milk and sawdust
Bread broken before sour wine
Salty tears, bitter fear
Ashes to ashes, mud pie
Blood and water served on a centurion’s spear
Linen, spices or stone?

It’s hard to taste anything when your lips are cracked and bloody
Your tongue swollen and stuck to the roof of your mouth

Word made Flesh
Flesh made Mercy
Embodied Love
Wondrous Love
Sacrificing Shepherd
Compassionate Christ
Taste and see that the Lord is good

I am held. I need to be held. I will be held.
Hold me, Jesus

You are encouraged to patronize today’s artist of the day, Justin Ulmer. Click here for more for his powerful and faithful work.

For an incredible video of Phil Keaggy singing Hold Me Jesus by Rich Mullins, click here

For a worship resource entitled The Searching Shepherd, click here

For more quotes and prayers on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, click here

The Taste of Death © 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form

For more information on the use of the art, scripture translations and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

The Son of Man is Come by Ralph Beyer

John 10:11, 17-18 (NRSV)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.

This is the primary mark of a good shepherd. He is willing to die that the sheep might live. That is what the story of the cross is all about.
– Edward Markquart, Sermons from Seattle

Sheep appointed for the slaughter, ready to be sacrificed, were ransomed with the blood of the shepherd. He laid down his life, hyper ton probaton, not only for the good of the sheep, but in their stead. Thousands of sheep had been offered in sacrifice for their shepherds, as sin-offerings, but here, by a surprising reverse, the shepherd is sacrificed for the sheep. – Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume 5

A comment on this text from H. H. Farmer has stayed with me over the years, to the effect that in his suffering and death Jesus was by no means a victim of circumstance, like a windblown leaf whipped about by evil forces. No one took his life from him. He offered it freely. Before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate, he is in control. He declares that they would have no power over him save from on high. He can already see his place at the Father’s right hand of power. These others cannot. They are the excited ones, and thereby the weak ones. With a regal air he speaks of his power to lay down his life and take it again. Herein lies the power and mystery of the Easter faith, that this risen Lord and faithful Shepherd has done the decisive deed in beating down sin and robbing death of its paralyzing thrall. – From Shepherding by F. Dean Lueking

Extended quote by William Loader from his blog First Thoughts
The ancient shepherd of Palestine or Asia Minor had to be tough, worked often in areas of sparse growth, frequently amid danger from wild animals and sheep stealers, and, above all, had to protect the flock, especially at night, when they would often be rounded up into a small pen. John 10 reflects this less than idyllic world. The bland teddy bear image gives way to a picture of tension: positively, a shepherd doing his job to the utmost; negatively, dangers which threaten the sheep (in the present and the future) and which will kill him. Life and death dance together…

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. For some, various images of atonement come flooding in at this point: he became the sacrificial lamb. This may be a helpful image, but we should see that it is not really what John is talking about. Rather John is referring to Jesus’ being prepared to face danger and death for the sake of his disciples. It is not about theories of atonement. His commission (command, as John 10:17-18 put it) was to come offering life. This he did. Carrying that through faithfully meant being prepared to die for it. This he did. This happened in the light of the larger goal: so that he could take up his life again and then, through the Spirit, spread it over all the world.

Faithful Shepherd,
You are not a hireling who runs away at the sight of danger,
but Your fidelity was tested and proven on the wood of the cross.
Accept the gift of our gratitude for Your marvelous care.
Help us to hear and follow Your voice.

Watchful Shepherd, who protects the flock
and searches tirelessly for those who wander from the fold,
retrieve the lost and bring them home.
Tend and heal their wounds.

Good Shepherd, who lays down His Life for His sheep,
nourish Your people with the Bread of Life,
that we may reflect Your likeness
and enjoy the spring of Living Water that never ends.
Amen.– traditional prayer, author unknown

Click here for a beautiful reflection entitled The Shepherd’s Voice by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

For more information on the use of the art, scripture translations and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Prayer for Earth Day



Antelope Canyon by Luca Galuzzi. Photo via Wikipedia Commons


Glorious One
Maker of galaxies
Maker of mountains
Maker of me
Thank you for your grace
Thank you for reaching out
For speaking through the majesty of your creation
For speaking into the smallness of my soul
Speak again
Help me to listen and to follow
Now and always

I encourage you to also check out Morning Prayer by Steve Garnaas Holmes. A joyful prayer incorporating images of sunrise and nature. Reminds me of All Creatures of Our God and King by Francis of Assisi.- Lisa <><

© 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Quotes: Protecting the Earth

Honeymoon Bay Sunset 2 by JJ Harrison. Photo via wikimedia commons

Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Psalm 24:1-2 (NRSV)
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.

Genesis 2:15 (NRSV)
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good, and He loves it. It is His world; He has never relinquished title to it. And He has never revoked the conditions, bearing on His gift to us of the use of it, that oblige us to take excellent care of it.
— Wendell Berry, What Are People For?

We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. – Aldo Leopold

I sincerely hate to say it, but I fear that Platonic philosophy has had more influence in Christian history than Jesus. The Jesus and Christ event says that matter and spirit, divine and human are not enemies, but are two sides of the same coin. They, in fact, reveal one another. For Plato, the body and the soul are mortal enemies and largely incompatible. Our poor sexual theology and our lackluster history of care for the earth and its resources, our disrespect for animals and all growing things, show that Christians have not seen matter and spirit as natural friends. Much of our history, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, has created Platonists much more than Incarnationalists or Christians. – Richard Rohr

Before I condemn the waste and abuse of others,
let me not be blind, loving God,
to the waste and destruction within my own home,
within my own soul.
Give me a heart of humility
and a commitment to change.
– Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel

Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he’s been given. But up to now he hasn’t been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life’s become extinct, the climate’s ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day. -Anton Chekhov, Uncle Vanya

There would be very little point in my exhausting myself and other conservationist themselves in trying to protect animals and habitats if we weren’t at the same time raising young people to be better stewards. -Jane Goodall

Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
For strip-mined mountain’s majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.
– George Carlin

Against the backdrop of infinite space, our planet appears so small, so vulnerable. Guide me, dear God, that I may cherish your earth and the life it sustains with the best of my energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.
Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel

We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. … We must recover the sense of the majesty of the creation and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. ~ Wendell Berry

When one tugs at a single thing in nature,
he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
– John Muir

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth.
We are all crew. ~ Marshall McLuhan

Creator God, we thank you for all of creation. We ask your forgiveness where we have failed to be just stewards. And we now ask for your guidance in restoring the face of the earth. May we learn to live in harmony, safety and just sharing of resources among all so that we achieve the kingdom of God.Amen. – concluding prayer from the Earth Day Novena by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

*Note- A Novena is a 9 day prayer cycle on a central theme, modeled after the nine days of prayer by the disciples between Jesus’ ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (Acts 1)

For more information on the use of the scripture translation, art and this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.