March 5, 2018

By Rev. Diane Rehfield, Atascadero UMC, North District

John 15:5

I 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.

Until I was appointed to a church in wine country, I never really had a physical connection to this verse. Intellectually I understood it, but now that I have lived more closely with grapevines and their branches, the verse touches me in a deeper way.

The church I serve was given a wonderful gift of some money to establish a prayer garden in celebration of the life of a woman who had been a master gardener. There are beautiful plants on either side of a wandering pathway, with four benches along the way. As you sit on the benches, you can read a short verse from the Bible. On one particular west-facing bench, you can see some beautiful sunsets taking place just over the hills. You can also see a wall just outside of an entrance to the sanctuary. Mounted on that wall is a branch from a grapevine. It’s a very familiar site around here. Lots of people have small vineyards, and we are surrounded by big vineyards too. They look so beautiful when they are full of leaves and fruit.

This particular branch is quite obviously cut off. It’s beautiful in its own way, but no one expects it to bear fruit. It is very dry, and there is no source of life for it. As you sit in the garden and look at the branch, it makes a stark contrast with the plants all around you, which are so full of life. They look beautiful, and they smell good, too. You can feel the life that radiates from them. They live in the rich good soil, but more importantly, they are connected to their source of life. And, that life flows through them.

Jesus invites us to stay connected in him in that same way. He is the source of our life, and when we live in that connection, he lives in us as well. His life flows through us, enabling us to do wonderful things in his name. Sitting on that bench, watching the sun set, and seeing the contrast between a well-connected plant and a branch that has been cut off from the vine, it’s very clear to me that I want to abide in him, and have him abide in me, in gratitude a for all that I have been given, and in awe of all that I am invited to participate in with him.

Prayer: Lord, help me always to remember that you are the source of my life, and when I stay connected to you, I am filled with a life energy that allows me to bring hope and joy to others in your name. Thanks be to God. Amen