Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
I love the Gospel reading from John for this week. Jesus is the true vine, God is the vine grower and we are the branches. It is a good centering prayer for me for a few reasons. The passages gives me something beautiful and tangible to picture. The metaphor implies organic life. Christ encourages us to grow everyday, and that growth will be healthy if we remain in Christ. Jesus urging us, “Remain in me, remain in me,” is a loving invitation, not a controlling one. It implies that we are already there, and we should stay because we are loved and because it is God’s will for us to thrive and be healthy. After reading this passage, I just let the word “remain” surface in my head at quiet moments. Sitting in the loving presence of Christ, remaining for awhile, is an act of faith, but we are also encouraged to grow from that place, to be who God created us to be in the world. We have access to life and sustenance in Christ every moment. The passages is gorgeous in its repetition, almost meditative in its cyclical nature. It reminds me that indeed Christ has chosen to remain in me, today and always. Remembering that Christ is dwelling in me changes how I go through my day. That is such an awesome daily reminder. Additionally, the passage brings up questions that lend themselves well to a daily spiritual check in:
Am I remaining in Christ?
How is my fruit doing?
I also like that in this passage, there are consequences. If we chose to grow in a direction on our own that does not bear fruit, that fruit will eventually die. We have all done this, and these deaths are painful and real. But in the pruning that happens throughout life, our merciful God does not cut us off the vine completely. There is always chance for re-growth, to try again, while remaining in Christ. So while there are consequences, there is also an opportunity to start anew at any moment.
Simultaneously, the vine is growing and remaining. It is reaching out into the world, but it is rooted in the vine. This tension is part of life, part of breath. Join me today in a short, simple meditation:
Close your eyes. Take a moment to take three long, deep breaths. With each exhale, feel yourself being grounded in the vine, in Christ, the source. On every inhale, feel your branch reaching into the world to bear good fruit.
This balance of grounding and reaching is part of being God’s children in the world. At any point of your day, this prayer is available to you. Take a moment, without anyone knowing, and be mindful of one breath, grounding yourself in Christ so that you can keep growing and bearing good fruit.
Photo courtesy of Diorama Sky via Creative Commons License