“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself but must remain in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that passage from John 15. Countless. Dozens. Lots. 😉 It’s one of those that I’ve contemplated before, and I had my takeaway that I always recall when I read it.

For me, the emphasis was always on how we must be pruned by the Father to bear fruit in the Son. That we have to let Him cut away not just what’s dead–sins, bad habits, flaws–but also what will detract from the fruit He wants us to bear. In pruning, perfectly healthy branches are trimmed and cut back, because that’s how the branch can bear bigger, healthier fruit–by focusing all the goodness into a few places instead of many.

That’s a valid lesson, and one I’m dwelling on even now as I contemplate it anew. Because you know, sometimes it feels like God cuts us back to the quick. Sometimes it feels like He’s gone a little overboard on the pruning, right? And regardless, it hurts. Not an easy process! At least, not when it’s in process. No one likes to have something cut from their lives or from their person or from their heart.

But when the fruit begins to grow, we can see how it was necessary. We can rejoice in what we bear for Him. We can appreciate the careful work He’s done.

All that’s just bonus insight today. Because today, I want to focus instead on another side of the passage. It isn’t just about how we are made into healthy branches–it’s about the miracle and archetype of being grafted into Christ. Through our relationship with Him, we not only gain access to, come under the care of the Vinedresser, let’s say…we receive LIFE.

What is a branch before it’s grafted onto the vine? That’s an interesting question. We, as Christians, tend to say, “It’s dead wood! Useless! Worthless! Without the vine, you’re nothing!” Which is sort of true…but not totally. Because you don’t graft a dead branch onto a vine. You graft a healthy, living one FROM ANOTHER VINE. That is what happens when we become Christians–we cut our branch off from the world, which is its own vine, though I’ll go ahead and say an inferior one, and graft it into Christ. This is how we become reborn. Re. We were already born. We existed. We were alive. But if we want to live forever, we need the vine that is eternal. That’s Christ.

And then…He nourishes us. That’s pretty amazing, right? Honestly, it’s amazing just in a horticultural sense. How in the world does it work to take a branch from one vine or tree, attach it to another one, and have it GROW? How does that work?

Interesting question. I’m not an expert, but I know it involves cutting the host tree/vine too, so that all the life inside it can get into the new graft.

We feel only our own pain when God takes the pruners to us. But Jesus was cut so that He could receive us. He bled. He died. So that His precious lifeblood could become our own. We partake of Communion so that His flesh and blood can become our flesh and blood. Because that’s how a graft works–the branch must take on the “blood” (obviously not blood in a plant, but the equivalent) of the vine. If it doesn’t, it dies. It’s pruned away. It’s cast off, into the fire. Jesus feeds us the good things we need to sustain us, and that’s how we flourish. That’s how we grow. That’s how we bear fruit. Through Him and with Him and in Him. He literally gives us life.

This sort of relationship should be pretty natural for us to understand–because it’s also what defines the best earthly ones. Think of your parents…your children…your best friends. The people dearest to us aren’t just there. There aren’t just pleasant. They’re life-giving. Sometimes literally, when you consider parents and children. Sometime spiritually. Emotionally. Mentally.

My family gives me life. They sustain me, body and soul. They give me a reason to be. My best friend does the same. I know that when I need support, encouragement, advice, I can go to her, and she’ll have it. That’s what the Patrons & Peers group has become, and why we all love it so much.

I also know that these Most Important People in my life aren’t just letting me grow wild. They’re checking me. Pruning me. Letting me know when I’m taking on more than I can handle, when I’m losing my focus on what God has really called me to, when I need to cut back on even good things to make room for the Best Things.

In a way, we’re all part of many vines. Our families, our communities. We give life to them, we take it in return. That’s the beauty of the plant analogy. Each branch is working not just to produce fruit, but to return its portion of sunlight and rain to the vine, the trunk, the roots. A tree can survive without any one branch, but not without any. We all play a role, we TOGETHER play a role, in making healthy that to which we belong. This is true in our families, our groups of friends, and the Church itself.

That ought to make us stop and think. What vines are we part of? From what do we take our nourishment and give back to it? Are we planted where we should be, or are we partaking of things that aren’t ultimately good for us? And of course, the truest test:

Are all our little vines rooted in Christ, the True Vine? Because apart from Him, we can do nothing that counts for eternity…and in eternity, that’s all that counts.

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