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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another Parable from Pastor Linda

This morning Reverend Linda Miller brought this parable to us:
A daughter is excited to see little Barbie-doll size green grapes growing on the vines. Her mother tells her that those grapes won't amount to anything. The daughter does not give up hope; but, the next time she sees the vines she realizes the mother is right. The grapes have not grown and matured. They've turned dark, but remained small. They look like bunches of pepper corns. She asks her mother if there is something that can be done with those vines. Can they cut them back, or prune the plant in some way? Her mother tells her no. "Those are no good. We'll have to tear down those branches and throw them into the fire."
We don't do apocalyptic stuff very often at Chalice, but that was the message I got from this parable. Christ is the vine, and we are the branches. We are to bear the fruit of Christ. What does that mean? We are to be the incarnation of Joy and Compassion and Hope and Justice. And if we are not, if we fail to bear fruit, well at some point you have to just throw those branches to the fire and start over.

I have a feeling that the Church is at a point when it must bear fruit. Do we stand for human dignity? Do we stand for stewardship of the earth? If we don't, well, you can read the story.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

The parable mentioned here clearly comes from the book of John, chapter 15, verses 1-8.
I am always interested in hearing what others have to say about God's words. According to my bible study: Christ is the vine and God is the gardener who cares for the branches to make them fruitful. The branches are all those who claim to be followers of Christ. The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with Christ produce much fruit. But those who become unproductive - those who turn back from following Christ after making a superficial commitment- will be separated from the vine. Unproductive followers are as good as dead and will be cut off and tossed aside.
Jesus makes a distinction between two kinds of pruning: (1) separating and (2) cutting back branches. Fruitful branches are cut back to promote growth. In other words, God must sometimes discipline us to strengthen our character and faith. But branches that don't bear fruit are cut off at the trunk because not only are they worthless, but they often infect the rest of the tree. People who won't bear fruit for God or who try to block the efforts of God's followers will be cut off from his life-giving power.
Many people try to be good, honest people who do what is right. But Jesus says that the only way to live a truly good life is to stay close to him, like a branch attached to the vine. Apart from Chist our efforts are unfruitful. My study book asks...Are you receiving the nourishment and life offered by Christ, the vine? If not, you are missing a special gift he has for you.
Personally, I grew up Catholic and did not get much bible study. I left the church for a while. I eventually came to realization that I needed to at least study God's word...and decided to attend non-denominational bible study groups. Reading the book of John introduced me to Christ....it was only after I got to know Christ that I got to know God. It is truly miraculous when that connection happens between a human being and God. That is only possible through Christ.

Hey...I am just trying to understand God's words..not to debate. God bless.

JimII said...

The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with Christ produce much fruit. . . . Reading the book of John introduced me to Christ. It was only after I got to know Christ that I got to know God. It is truly miraculous when that connection happens between a human being and God. That is only possible through Christ.I think the point of the parable is that if you don't have this kind of connectedness with Christ and therefore God, which you describe, you will not be able to produce fruit. I think it is about having faith in Christ, not about believing certain facts. "True believer" could be a good phrase for that. Not that you believe this or that happened, but that you believe in Christ. Which means that you trust Christ's teaching and emulate his example.

Thus, we need to ask what kind of fruit should we be producing? How are we being the presence of Christ on Earth? Are we standing up for the outcast? Are we helping the poor? Have shown others compassion? Have we comforted the sick or worked for their healing?

I also think the analogy works for the church as whole. Is the church doing more good than harm? The church has allowed itself to be coopted by a political party in recent years. (Recent as from around the late 1970's.) In so doing it has chased away many, many people from the body of Christ. More importantly, by becoming an arm of a secular institution it has failed entirely to do God's work. Instead being pro-War, pro-Capitalists, pro-Establishment.

To be clear, I am not saying there is never a time to go to war (I'm a veteran), or that there is a better economic system than capitalism (I am a commercial litigator). My point is, that these things are not what Jesus supported. They are not the fruit of the vine. And so the church as well as churches as well as Christians must evaluate whether they are producing the fruits of Christ's ministry.

The parable mentioned here clearly comes from the book of John, chapter 15, verses 1-8.
. . .
Hey...I am just trying to understand God's words..not to debate. God bless.
A couple of ground rules. I love to hear other voices as well. That is why I allow anonymous posting. But, the point of hearing those voices is to discuss, which requires your views to be challenged. That's what happens here.

The other thing is that we assume that people posting are intelligent and genuine. So, I'm assuming you started your post the way you did just as an introduction into John 15:1-8, and not that you thought you were revealing something new to us. This was the lectionary two weeks ago. Obviously I knew, and Linda knew, and everyone who heard Linda tell her story from her trip home knew, that the reason she told the story the way she did was to reference this scripture.

Please read and post again. Expect to be challenged.

Love,
JimII

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your kind respond. I do appreciate you allowing people to post anonymously.

Why do you always assume that people are intelligent and genuine? If someone attended your church and had never read the bible, do you think they would have understood Pastor Linda's parable?
I am curious to know how you define "intelligent"?

I agreed with you completely that our views need to be challenged. That is the only way to grow. It is too bad that so many people shy away from being challenged and actually believe they know better. I call that ignorance.

JimII said...

If someone attended the church they would have heard the scripture read earlier that morning.

Also, the parable carries weight in its message, regardless of who presents it.

I assume people know what they are talking about because it prevents unnecessarily putting someone off.

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