I hope and pray this letter finds you well. We continue this week with the names of Jesus. One of the things I love about this time of year is the fact that after a hard day’s week, I can pop into the garden and potter and feel the stresses and strains of the day just drift away. I feel so fortunate that during the days of the pandemic I was able to spend some many happy hours in the garden with Laura and Paddy (the dog). Gardening is not just therapeutic but rewarding, transforming a garden into an oasis of calm that you can relax in. When I moved into the Hayes manse and I started to look at the state of the garden I was surprised it had been allowed to become so overgrown. To give you an idea, the flowerbed at one side of the garden was 13 feet wide! I found after some jolly hard work and some help, I could finally look out of the manse window and feel relaxed.
In todays reading from John 15: 1-8, Jesus describes Himself as the true vine and His Father as the gardener. Jesus explains that for the vine to bear fruit it must be nurtured. As part of this some branches must be cut off so that the whole plant may become even more fruitful. Jesus commends the disciples to remain in Him so that they too will bear much fruit. Jesus continues to say that without Him they (and by implication us) can do nothing. If we do dare to depart from Him, we are like the branch that is cut off and tossed away and thrown onto the fire. Not only is this a warning to be stay as followers of Jesus but it is a sign that one day there will be a judgement in which all our work will be tested by holy fire to see if it is worthy. It also serves to remind us that we will also be judged and those people who have decided not to follow Christ will face eternity separated from Him.
Jesus also states that if we remain in Him, follow His Word and our prayers will be answered. This sounds great and it is, but we must remember that our prayers must align with God’s will and be said with the right motives and they will be answered in God’s time and in God’s way. So, what can we learn from this short passage? This concept of remaining in Jesus is an important one, many people will tell you that if you come to church and say your prayers all will be well, but we are instructed to remain faithful in our following of Jesus and His Word and this means taking the Bible seriously. I have heard it said recently, well the Bible was written a long time ago it needs updating for today’s society but that is not exactly true.
The Word tells in us that the grass withers, the flowers fade but the Word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). It is also said that the Bible was written by lots of different people therefore it contradicts itself and is full of inaccuracies. That is also a lie. The Bible may have been written by lots of different people, but it was edited by the Holy Spirit who guided the writers and safeguarded the entire project (2 Timothy 3:16). So, in all things we are to use the lens of scripture to test the spirits, to show us the will of God and to help guide us and to discern the future. In the same way you might refer to a RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) manual to help advise you about gardening, the Bible is our expert guide to life. Secondly, it is about our intention and focus, and that always needs to remain in Jesus. For without remaining faithful and having a good prune we will not be fruitful.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, the True Vine, bless us now and always,