Monday, September 21, 2009

Churches and Branches and Vines - Oh My!

Let’s talk vines and branches.

With the “body” metaphor, we get the idea that the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” But when talking about gardening, you’ve got to deal with the pruning issue. Because, you see, it is possible (and even common) for the vine to say to a certain branch, “I don’t need you,” and the branch is subsequently pruned away.

This pruning happens because the offending branch is somehow threatening the overall health of the plant. The way to keep the plant alive therefore is to cut away the sick part so that the whole plant will flourish.

Oh, how fun it would be to be the gardener! Then it would be up to us which branches needed pruning and which needed to stay connected. The only problem with that is that, in this analogy, God is the gardener. God gets to do the pruning, not us. John 15:1 Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-grower.”
So it is still true, using the metaphor of the body or of the vine, that one part cannot say to another, “I don’t need you.” A single branch on the vine couldn’t look at another branch and decide to prune it. That’s up to the gardener, not the branches.

Too frequently we (the church) have put ourselves in the place of the gardener, deciding who needs pruning so that the vine can be healthy. The truth is, you and I are simply branches on the vine, as apt to be pruned away as any other branch.

I prefer thinking about it from the flipside – in order to stay healthy and bear good fruit, I had better stay connected to the vine. And consequently, as I am connected to the vine, I am connected to the other branches thereupon. It is from our connectedness that we draw that which sustains our lives.

I am thankful to be a part of a denomination that celebrates connection. It reminds us that we are a part of something transcendent, bigger than us. It calls us to expand our thoughts and extend ourselves outward. Thank God for the connection!

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