of Vines and Vinegrowers
In the Gospel this week Jesus introduces us to the image of the vine and the vinegrower. The vinegrower is judicious in his pruning, cutting back the branches that don’t bear any fruit so that the rest of the vine can bear much fruit.
Now, as I have told you before, I do not have much of a ‘green thumb’ - that is, I’m not very good at keeping plants alive. In fact some of you helped me with my Facebook rumination about how to rescue some bulbs and rose bushes from my parents house before it is sold. Anyone who has had to go through a similar process with their family knows how difficult this can be. Often something strange and kind of out of the blue becomes the focal point for your anxiety around grief and loss and for me it is certainly ‘Papa’s Roses.’ My grandfather, who passed away in 2015, was a quiet man who seemed to carry most of his own grief and worry from surviving the Great Depression and World War II in two very green thumbs. Which left us with beautifully timed gardens that stay colorful all spring and summer, and some very beautiful rose bushes.
And while I may be able to recover some bulbs and planting’s from Papa’s Garden, the reality is I did not ‘abide in him’ nearly enough while he was alive to maintain such a beautiful garden (nor do I have the space here in Bolton Hill!) and so in some sense, that part has been ‘pruned away’ and I will have to work awfully hard to get it back.
Fortunately, I did abide in my Grandfather in other ways, particularly his faith, his devotion to his family, his patience with and care for others, his perhaps intense frugality, and his delight in taking things apart and putting them back together again. So I do not lament too much in the loss of the garden, because Papa’s roots still run quite deep in me.
As Christians, we are invited into a similar relationship with Jesus the vinegrower and the large vineyard of the Christian tradition. There is nothing wrong with trimming parts of the tradition off that have outlived their usefulness (or perhaps shouldn’t have been there at all!) There is no room in the Church for misogyny, homophobia, racism, sexism, or judgement of others based on their age, gender, or identity. I am grateful that Christ has worked very hard pruning back the Episcopal Church in order to allow a stronger vine to grow.
But we also must ask how close we are to the vine, in order to ensure that we are not in danger of being pruned ourselves. An important question to ask in this regard is ‘how central is Jesus Christ to your daily life?’ While some prefer the (in my opinion heretical) question ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ I prefer the query ‘Where is Christ in this?’
‘Where is Christ in this?’ When I yell at the guy running the stop sign for the umpteenth time. ‘Where is Christ in this?’ As I prepare to make a caustic remark to someone in person or on social media. ‘Where is Christ in this?’ As I contemplate skipping out on a community cleanup or neighborhood event because I’m too tired. These questions matter because no matter how right our politics are - ultimately it is faith that people come seeking at church, relationship with Jesus and with other Christians. That is the fruit they are seeking, and that is what Memorial is so very good at offering.
If we keep ourselves close to vine, and seek a deeper relationship with the vinegrower, I have no doubt we will bear much fruit.