Easter 5, John: 15.
“I am the vine…you are the branches.”
Grape vines need radical pruning to keep their productivity. The year before last Jean pruned the vines and combined with the wet spring, the Niagara grapes were abundant. Last year there were hardly any. The roots also need care. Weeding and compost build what seems over the years to produce almost indestructible plants.
You can also cross various kinds of grapes. A man named Ephraim Bull in Concord, MA, by chance, cross pollinated a wild grape with his cultivated one and from that came the Concord grape, a favorite of my youth and the base for “Welch’s Grape Juice”. Despite the fact that the company’s president was the head of the John Birch Society, the grapes are still sweet.
There’s probably no more potent deterrent to life in the spirit than a closed mind, a blocked heart and a clenched fist. I suspect the root Jesus was fully connected to was openness to drawing the meaning, the water and nutrients of life from the source or all being. As he drew from that source he was given the power to see and hear and live in God’s presence no matter what.
Jesus is saying that He has been in a process of pruning. Life itself prunes. He was pruned by his connection to what he saw as his calling and mission. In order for the pruning to bear much fruit, the main vine can’t be severed from the root. But when that root and vine are nourished they bear much fruit.
Raimon Pannikar said: “I am one with the source insofar as I act as a source, making everything I have received flow again-just like Jesus.” In her wonderful book, The Wisdom Jesus, Cynthia Bourgeault describes Jesus process of keeping the flow of divine energy open as His radical self-emptying love. Instead of storing up the divine love, he “is throwing it all away.”
The point is that the disciple stays connected to the root not by making an idol of the Christ, but becoming like Him, through a process of letting go, of opening the heart and mind and our clenched hands to be emissaries of divine love. And, like Him, to stay one with the source, the root, enfleshed and alive in the wonder and tragedy of the world. The Christ gives to us Christians that connection. And in a sense, if we look at Jesus without too many of the accoutrements of history and culture, we can see his working in the creation to keep us open to the heart and soul of the divine love and to find ways to act out that love in the particulars of our time.
After all the sweetest grapes came from Mr. Bull’s, accidental cross pollination of wild grapes to his cultivated vines in Concord, MA. Mr. Bull died penniless, but so did Jesus. Money is such a false idol.