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True Vine-Musing 5/1/2024

John 15:1-8

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Jesus the True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes[a] to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed[b] by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide 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. 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. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become[c] my disciples.


  1. 15.2 The same Greek root refers to pruning and cleansing

  2. 15.3 The same Greek root refers to pruning and cleansing

  3. 15.8 Or be


So, I preached on this passage last week in worship. I told the congregation then that this passage was rich enough for several sermons. I guess it’s also worth a Midweek Musing post as well.

The passage is where Jesus declares that he is the true vine. It is one of the seven remarkable “I am” statements found in John’s gospel.

This metaphor is deeply rich in its imagery. As such there are numerous facets of the text which can be analyzed and expounded upon. Last Sunday I discussed how Jesus is the true vine from whence we get our nourishment, and that while we sometimes need to have things pruned away so we might produce better fruit, we are never completely cut off from God’s love and grace. I also began to discuss another aspect of Jesus’ grapevine image that I thought worth noting but decided we needed to finish church before the sun set.

Anyway, I wondered if you noticed that a grapevine which Jesus uses in this part of what Biblical scholars call his farewell discourse, is a powerful image of connectedness?

If you go to a vineyard—maybe on a wine tasting tour if that is your thing—you will not see a bunch of tiny, individual plants like tomatoes or squash that are evenly spaced in row upon row. Plants like these grow in a single season and are harvested, and their seeds need replanting year after year. Lots of other fruits and vegetables grow that way, but not grapes. A grapevine is a large complex organism. A grapevine extends not only across an expanse of space, but also—because it’s a perennial—across time.

The vine has many individual branches, but they’re all entwined, connected to one another. They are all interconnected.

“Independence?” asks the playwright George Bernard Shaw in what I think is the only line I remember from the play Pygmalion which I read as part of some university class. “Independence. It’s middle-class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.”

That of course, is the physical or spatial part of the vine metaphor. But there is a time or temporal dimension to this as well.

A grapevine persists from season to season, putting forth new branches — even as some of those branches finish their fruit-bearing work, grow brittle and ultimately fall away.

This is a wonderful image for the life and work of the church from generation to generation.

Paul tries to explain this connectedness not with a grapevine, but he says we as the church are “the body of Christ.”

In today’s American society this is counter-cultural stuff. Our society idolizes individual achievement. We as a nation have fallen in love with the mythical lie of the rugged individual.

What it seems our Lord Jesus is telling us, here, is that he’s far more interested in seeing the full ripe, flavorful bunches of grapes we can produce by working together than the poor, scrawny variations we can put forth on our own. And our goal is to be sure that we leave this world at least as well if not better than we found it.

Friends, like it or not, we are entwined: joined together as in a single vine. It’s the way God has made us. Ponder the implications of that, each time you come to the Lord’s table where we share bread from one loaf and the juice from one cup.

Recall the intricate and beautiful ways you are joined to your neighbors, and ask yourself, “What is the fruit I am called to bear, for the sake of my Lord, the one true vine so that the kingdom of God might be better realized on earth even as we long for that promised day of God?

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia Amen.


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