In the Gospel of Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus uses parables to explain to us the insights of the Kingdom of Heaven. A parable is story that Jesus used using everyday, real life examples that have a higher meaning. The normal purpose of Bible parables was to convey a spiritual truth. We are currently working through different parables on our Tuesday Night Bible Study here at the church.
Parables are great and for the most part they are quite easy to understand. However, John does not use parables to describe our relationship between God, Jesus and us – instead he uses I am Statements.
When Jesus talks about the vine and the branches he is talking about us.
He is talking about a way that sees through death and decay to new life. It should be no surprise that we who are connected to both God and the world around us should observe and adopt the method of pruning our lives to promote growth. We are the stewards of this world. If we take seriously our task of caring for this world, we will understand that pruning is a necessary part of that care.
A quick survey gives us the following in John’s Gospel. Jesus is: the bread of life, the light of the world, both the gate of the sheepfold and the good shepherd, The resurrection and the life, the way, the truth and the life, and here, in Chapter 15, the last of the sayings, Jesus says “I am the vine.”
All of these things connect the reality of God with the fabric of our lives. All of these sayings deepen our understanding of how God interacts in the world and interacts with us.
Of course Jesus is challenging the imaginations and faith. Jesus is also taking on some of the most treasured concepts in Israel: he claims to be the new “manna” for all the people, he claims Israel’s vocation as light for the world, he claims to be the shepherd of Israel, he claims to be “life” for the people, he claims to replace torah as “way, truth and life” for the people, and finally, he claims the language of vineyard, the intimate language of God and his people.
In the Old Testament the relationship between God and people is likened to a vineyard owner and the vines. In the other Gospels, this concept is brought out in parables explaining why the vineyard is to be dug up and replanted, in one sense, or handed over to new tenants in another. But here, Jesus binds himself to the vineyard itself in metaphor.
He maintains the connection to the Old Testament parable by setting his Father as the vine dresser, but in this version, Jesus himself claims to be the vine.
In fact, we would expect nothing less from Jesus. Here, joins himself to the suffering and the consequences of the failed vocations of the Old Testament as well as in our lives.
“I am the vine, you are the branches” he declares, and in doing so has set in motion the pain that he must feel as the branches are pruned and readied for new growth, new fruit, new harvest. Jesus suffers with his people, in this analogy, and not merely for them.
This becomes the heart of the good news for us God now not only dwells with us, but suffers with us, fails with us, and dies with us. Such is the extent of the love that the owner has for the vineyard. His life and destiny are joined to the vine. But then, so are we, who are joined onto this tree, this vine, this Christ. Since he suffers, fails and dies with us, so we are made whole, conquer sin and receive new life with Christ. In the process there will be pruning, getting rid of all the things that draw us away from God – once we start the pruning we start producing a whole new kind of fruit.
No matter how strong we are we cannot do for ourselves. We have the body gathered here to help us produce new fruit, but this day we also remember our families that help lead and guide us, especially all the mothers in the world.
This is a day of special thanksgiving to God for the love and care of mothers. Mother’s Day may not be a high holy day, it may not even appear on the liturgical calendar, but maybe it should.
Mother’s Day not only affords us the opportunity to give thanks for our mothers, but it’s also a time to reflect on the “mothering” attributes of our God
For example, Another interpretation of today’s text might be, “I am the true vine, and God is like a mother who lovingly and carefully tends the vineyard garden. She wants the vineyard to grow and be prosperous so she removes every branch from the vine that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit she prunes carefully, constructively, and surgically to make it bear more fruit.
The pruning metaphor works best if we think of God as a gardener who grieves while watching a violent storm rip through her beloved garden. Afterward, she tenderly prunes the injured plants in order to guarantee survival and to restore beauty and harmony. But we can’t confuse pruning with the crises that overtake us. No, pruning has more to do with clearing away the debris those crises leave behind.
We as individuals experience crises and we at the church experience crises – and it is God our loving father, God our loving mother who prunes away the branches that do not produce fruit and restores beauty and harmony in our lives and in our church.
Not only has God chosen to be our trunk, our life giving tree, but God has promised to tend and care for us the branches and will do what it takes for us to bear fruit.
The storms of life will blow with a force that we cannot bear and those storms will cause us to crash down, be separated by the heavy load and our weakened connection to the trunk may cause us to falter, we may become weak, but God will never let us go, and God will be with us until we are restored and made stronger. This is a promise to us in our baptism, this is a promise made to us in the meal that we share together – that’s a promise from God. This promise has been made known to us by Jesus who says to us “I AM”
IAM the bread of life the one who sustains you and nurses you when you feel weak.
Jesus says I AM the light of the world the one who lights you path when it seems most dark,
Jesus says I AM the gate of the sheepfold and the good shepherd the one who stays with you even when the wolfs come to snatch you away,
Jesus says I AM The resurrection and the life, the way, the truth and the life Jesus says I am the one who sacrificed himself for the forgiveness of your sins – the one who died so you can have eternal life.
Jesus says “I am the vine I am your father and your mother – the one who cares for you and protects you when things seem to go wrong in your life, I am the one who is there for you when no one else seems to be there for you. I am the one who suffers with you, the one who helps you who loves you no matter what.
Jesus says I AM
We witness Jesus the I AM in the remembrance of our baptism—and next week we will witness Jesus saying I AM when we gather together for the baptism of Benjamin Morrision during the 10:30 service
We taste Jesus the I AM when we participate in the holy meal of communion when we eat the bread and drink wine.
We hear Jesus the I AM when we sing together, sing songs of praise, in proclaiming God as our king.
We feel Jesus the I AM on our hearts and in our lives as we proclaim the Gospel of love and forgiveness to the world.
This love of God is particularly unfamiliar to our world, especially because it seems so contrary to how we imagine God to be. So many god type people seem to be portrayed as strong father figures. But on this day, celebrated as mother’s day, it is good to see this very feminine image of a God who cares for us as vine and vine dresser. This nurturing love of God who suffers with us and tends us with care.
Jesus says to us I AM – Jesus identifies himself with so many wonderful things in our lives and Jesus promises us to be with us comforting us, forgiving us and loving us as the vine – the strong hold in our lives.