Vines and Branches

Jesus description of the Christian life in terms of a Vine and its branches is a favourite for many (John 15). It’s a cool image by which to think about the Christian life – even if we don’t always ‘get’ the details of what He’s getting at. And yet, it is an image worth digging into as we wrestle with the effects of our social isolation in relationship to our spiritual lives today.

We’ve grown accustomed to thinking about our faith as something that involves ‘thinking’ – but little more. As long as I ‘know’ the right stuff, what do I need Church for? And yet, when we read through Scripture – and John 15 – Jesus illustrates for us something that is far more earthy.

Just like a branch needs to be physically connected to the Vine in order for it to be alive, we too need to be physically connected to Christ our Saviour. We often miss that point in our day of ‘information overload’ where we reduce even our faith to just bits and bites of ‘information’. The picture Jesus gives us, however, is one in which He reminds us of the very earthy, organic, physical character of what our spiritual lives are about. We need a real human incarnate Saviour to save us body and soul; and certainly that is what Jesus is. In the same way, the gift of salvation, forgiveness and life comes to us in a very earth, organic, and physical way as the Holy Spirit ties us into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through the physical means of the Sacraments.

At no point in the Bible is there any suggestion that Baptism, Absolution, and Communion are somehow ‘optional’. Instead, we need to be connected to Jesus (like branches to a Vine) in order to receive Life from Him. Baptism ‘grafts us in’ to the Body of Christ (see 1 Cor 12), Absolution works out the kinks in our lives, and in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus our Vine lets His Life-blood flow from Him to us to keep, sustain, and strengthen us in our faith.

That faith, salvation, and new Life are nothing short of that Gift which Jesus provides – and we can’t just run on the fumes of our ‘thinking’ faith – which is too easy to push away onto a shelf like an unused book. Instead, we are reminded to be present – in the physical Body of the Church – which is nothing less that the mystical (but real) Body of Christ – constituted in the waters of Baptism, strengthened as we learn to live that life of confessing our brokenness in order to receive and hear those words of forgiveness/Absolution – and then eating and drinking the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (John 6:53 – where Jesus doesn’t back down from the earthiness of His comments) so that His Life becomes our life and His death and resurrection become the heartbeat which animates our lives of faith.

I know that we live in scary times. Don’t let the fears and worries of today swallow up that call from our Saviour to taste and see that the Lord is indeed good (Psalm 34:8). After all, this is Jesus offering Himself to you for your life and salvation. That’s a Gift that I wouldn’t want to miss out on just because I’m anxious or

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