Over the next few weeks we will be taking a closer journey through the first section John 15. It is from this passage that our theme and focus for 2021. I thought I would be a good idea to explore this passage a little more and be challenged by what it says to us. This week we will look at the whole passage and then over the following 5 weeks we’ll break the passage down into sections and explore them in more detail. In the gospel of John, chapter 15 is in the midst of what is known as Jesus’ farewell discourse. It is placed during the gathering in the upper room and after Christ has washed the feet of the disciples. These chapters could be considered prayers. Prayers for the unity of his disciples, prayers for better connections with God, in these chapters the new commandment is given, there is the promise of the Holy Spirit, there is the preparation of ‘my Father’s house’, and then we come to the declaration from Christ that he is “..the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” Early in chapter 15 Jesus tells his disciples to “Abide in me as I abide in you.” What does Jesus mean when he says abide? It’s not a word we use very often in today’s language. I suspect today we generally think ‘dwell’ or ‘stay’ when we encounter the word ‘abide’. We might occasionally come across it in the sense of something we simply cannot ‘abide’ – hold to. Some of the older uses of the word are helpful for considering the meaning when ‘abide’ is used in such contexts as the reading from John 15. Older meanings evoke a sense of sustaining, steadfastness, and even defiance. To stay here, with, in spite of challenge, in defiance of attack. To remain for the long haul even through trouble or triumph.
Steadfast. There’s a word used of God throughout the biblical tradition. Especially when speaking of God’s steadfast love.
It was this steadfastness, this staying, that the ministry team was looking for. For us to grow and mature, to be and to do, to witness to and connect with we need to abide in God. And we have the promise that if we abide in God, God will abide in us, and that helps us abide in God.
This is where our strength comes from, this is the image of Christ being the vine and we the branches. As branches who abide in God it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that helps us to grow and produce fruit. We need to be grounded in God, our theme for 2019 and 2020, and now we need to grow from that grounding and begin the process of producing fruit. Something we can only do through and in God.