Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Vine and the Branches - Have We Forgotten?

Jesus gave us a great gift when he gave us an image, a metaphor, a way of understanding ourselves and our ministry in the world. He taught that he is the vine and we are the branches. If we abide in the true Vine, and he in us, we will bear much fruit. He promises that it will be fruit that will last.

I imagine all mainline denominations are struggling, as mine is, with this concept of what fruit is. In our age of deep anxiety about institutional decline, it is tempting to be reductionist. We reduce the concept of fruitfulness to a less organic and more institutional way of thinking. We are left busily counting our fruit, crunching our numbers of membership or baptisms or giving or some other such measurable and quantifyable results, instead of focusing on the True Vine who gives us life. In our culture fixated on functionalism, we might even reduce our understanding of worship to a matter of whether it produces desired results.

To abide in the Vine and trust God for fruit that will last is an act of faith like it never has been before. Our effectiveness is not up to us. The goal of our lives is not to be more productive or successful but to live in a greater mystery. If we abide in Christ, he promises, we will bear fruit that will last. If we trust God with the fruit and focus on being who God made us to be, we place ourselves in God's hands. Do we no longer believe this?

I choose to live in Christ's alternative value system.