John 15: 5, 8-13
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (NIV).”
Jesus uses the image of a vine, its branches, and its fruit to describe how a life lived in him works. The branches depend completely on the vine for daily nourishment of nutrients and water. The very life of the branches depends on the vine, just as the life of any follower of Jesus depends completely upon the gifts God gives us. In the same way, the grapes or tomatoes that grow on the branches of a vine are dependent on two things, the nourishment coming from the vine and the ability of the branches to thoroughly allow that nourishment to pass through to the growing fruit.
This picture of life in Jesus reminds us that the fruit of our lives-the relationships we have, the good work we do, the hard but right choices we must make, the ways we care for the poor, the creative and beautiful things we make, the families we raise-is less a result of our personal efforts and more a result of being so connected to God in a relationship of love expressed in obedience that we don’t get in the way of the good life that flows from our heavenly Father.
Lent is a good time to assess how we, the branches, may be constricting the flow of God’s gracious love to the people around us. Do we allow our worries and fears to dominate our relationships? Do we hurry so much that everything feels like a “have to” instead of an “I get to?” Do we block love and acceptance with a critical attitude? These are ways we squeeze down our branches, cutting off the flow of God’s life giving love. We don’t assess ourselves this way to feel badly. We do this in order to ask God to heal us so that his love flows more freely through us. Then the fruit of our lives grows sweeter and more nourishing for others.