John 15:5 (NRSV)
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.
The possibilities of going it alone in American society are widespread and inviting. Carried over into the spiritual life, this fact can have devastating results. Dependency and inter-relatedness are rarely valued to the extent that individualism is. This passage flies in the face of such attitudes with a very different type of invitation to reliance on God. – Susan Hedahl, Working Preacher
“To abide” has to do with persevering, continuing, lasting, staying with it. No wonder the term is rare. What it means is rare, in this or any time. – F. Dean Lueking
Poverty is not just a life of simplicity, humility, restraint, or even lack. Poverty is when we recognize that myself—by itself—is largely powerless and ineffective. John’s Gospel puts it quite strongly when it says that a branch that does not abide in Jesus “is withered and useless” (John 15:6). The transformed self, living in union, no longer lives in shame or denial of its weakness, but even rejoices because it does not need to pretend that it is any more than it actually is—which is now more than enough! – Richard Rohr
Into this drive-through world obsessed with the quick fix, the instant message, the fast buck—into this world that disposes even of people, comes a voice imploring us to slow down, to dig in, to hold on. – Lance Pape
The spiritual journey always includes a certain amount of disillusionment, but it is a disillusionment, which if embraced, will keep God the only “primary source” in our lives— allowing everything and everyone else to be secondary. Without this, we will expect others to provide what only God can, and we will become exhausted trying to find “it.” – Steve Harper, An End to “Spiritual Shopping”
But even if we were not sinners at all, we would depend utterly on God for our life and our happiness. Our poverty before God in this sense is an essential key to being truly human. Perhaps we can now begin to see why Jesus begins the Beatitudes with the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” In a profound sense, poverty of spirit is the basis for every beatitude that follows, the critical foundation for citizenship in God’s realm.
– Marjorie J. Thompson and Stephen D. Bryant,
The Way of Blessedness Participant’s Book
We have as necessary and constant a dependence upon the grace of the Mediator for all the actions of the spiritual and divine life as we have upon the providence of the Creator for all the actions of the natural life; for, as to both, it is in the divine power that we live, move, and have our being. Abstracted from the merit of Christ, we can do nothing towards our justification; and from the Spirit of Christ nothing towards our sanctification. Without Christ we can do nothing aright, nothing that will be fruit pleasing to God or profitable to ourselves. (2 Corinthians 3:5) – Matthew Henry
Vine and Branches by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Does the branch pray to the tree?
Does the little limb think
of the great root buried in its grave,
the wine poured up
through the sturdy chalice of the trunk?
Does the leaf seek the will
of the seed, or contemplate
the shape of the body,
the arms spread out over the earth?
Does the bud seek guidance
or understand its place
in the miracles and teachings of the seasons?
I don’t know about that;
in the branch the leaf opens,
the blossom unfolds,
the fruit swells.
God is the Vinegrower, the one who created the world and continues to love it even though it has become infested with briars and thorns. God is determined to see a living organism flourish and grow on the ravaged landscape of a sinful world, until it can become a source of healing for all the nations. – Stan Wilson
Revelation 22:1-2 (NRSV)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Love flows from God into man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world,
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound. – Mechtild of Magdeburg
Gracious Lord, you are the Bread of Life, who provides for all my needs and satisfies the deepest longing of my heart; graft me into the very center of your great tree of life; feed me, nourish me, and care for me like a tender vine that I might grow into Christ in all things. Amen. – Paul Wesley Chilcote, A Life-Shaping Prayer
Click here for another devotion based on the vine/branches imagery of John 15
Click here for a post entitled Jesus the Vine: Bearing Fruit, which includes an original prayer litany
Click here for a post entitled Jesus the Vine: Abiding = Loving, which includes an original hymn text
Vine and Branches © Steve Garnaas-Holmes. Used by permission. For more of Steve’s thoughtful and beautiful work, check out his website, Unfolding Light
For more information on use of the art, scripture translation and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.