John 15:1-8 draws on the image of the vineyard that plays a prominent part in the Biblical understanding of our relationship with God. God wants us to remain connected to his life and be fruitful in it! Whether in sending the prophets of Old, or Jesus, God tends his “vine” (all who are joined to Jesus!) by pruning what lives, and removing what is dead to be burned.
In 1 John 4:7-21 we see how love is the ultimate criteria by which God evaluates his vine – it is the fruit we are to bear. We cannot claim to love God and “hate” our brothers and sisters. The absence of this love is the sign of a person who is “dead” to God, living apart from the Spirit, and withering.
Acts 8:26-40 gives us the story of Philip and the Ethiopian official. A new branch is “grafted” to God’s vine as the man is baptized into faith in Jesus Christ. We have every reason to believe in the fruitfulness of this encounter, as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church traces its roots to this very event and even today carries on in the midst of persecution in an area of the world dominated by Islam.
Comment: Jesus is the true vine planted in our world to create a harvest of the love, grace and truth of God. Through our baptisms we have been joined to him. Sometimes I feel the “pruning touch” of the Lord upon me, and in hindsight it was always for my good. Sometimes, I feel the life of the Spirit within, giving me gifts needed for the day. All of our circumstances differ, but wherever we are, the Lord is looking for the fruit of love in our lives: a love we extend in concrete ways to our brothers and sisters in faith, and a love we extend to all whom we meet. What does that look like for you today?