Connected for Life
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A parent stands at the bus stop on the first day of school with a kindergarten student. Another parent lingers in the doorway of a first-year dorm after unloading the final box from the car. These parents are entering new times they will not be present to help their children make some important life choices, and words of advice slip from their lips—eat your sandwich before your dessert, share with others, don’t drink and drive, remember who you are. After years of preparation, their children step toward greater independence.
Jesus lingers with the disciples before his death and prepares them for the time when he will no longer be present day to day to help them make their way in the world. Words slip from his mouth: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). These are difficult words as the disciples try to make sense of Jesus’ impending death and the promise of his continued presence.
“Apart from me you can do nothing” may also be a difficult word for a self-reliant, individualistic culture such as our own, focused on personal achievement and success. God is the vine grower, Jesus the vine, and we the branches, who, separated from the life-giving vine, can do nothing.
Yet, these are gracious, gospel words from Jesus. He’s been preparing his disciples for years to take this step. These are words that point not toward individualistic, self-reliant independence but toward dependence on the one whose life defies death and whose perfect love casts out all fear. Connected to the vine, these branches are given a death-defying life free from fear. These are gracious, gospel words from Jesus that point to a community nourished by this life-giving vine and bearing fruit for the sake of the world.
Gospel: John 15:1-8
On the night of his arrest, Jesus taught his disciples about the relationship they would have with him. Those who abide in his word and love bear fruit, for apart from him, they can do nothing.
[Jesus said:] 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”