The month of April will see us moving from the quiet and introspection of Lent, through the dark sadness and gloom of Good Friday, and into the joy and celebration of Easter Sunday. It’s a journey we’ve taken before, but which holds, as always, the possibility of our receiving something “new” from the Lord if we are ready to receive it. God continues to speak to us through his word and by his Spirit, if we continue to lean close enough to listen.
On the night when Jesus was betrayed, he shared the Passover meal with his friends, the disciples. Each of the Gospels paints a view of that evening from a slightly different angle. The Gospel of John reveals that Jesus taught his disciples one final time before heading toward the cross, and we find that teaching in John chapters 14-16. At the heart of this portion of Scripture is the image of a vine and its branches. Jesus reminds his friends (and us) that he is the vine and that we are the branches.
The picture Jesus helps us imagine isn’t a static image, though. It’s a metaphor that carries through over time. Jesus doesn’t just inform his followers that they are branches attached to him as their central vine. He also encourages and implores them to remain attached to him—to abide in him. Jesus says that if a person “remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). That means that if the vine grows in a new direction to accomplish the will of the gardener (identified by Jesus here as our heavenly Father), the branches had better cling tight and follow the lead of the vine.
If we, as branches, fall off (or jump off) the vine, our fate is certain: we’ll be just as dried out and fruitless as any twig broken off of a grapevine. Abiding, staying in close contact, takes effort and intentionality. We remain in intimate proximity with Jesus because we know and trust that it is he alone who gives us life, who offers us the strength we need, and who provides any hope of bearing lasting fruit in a world where so much passes away so easily. Let each of us continue to cling to Jesus, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.
As we come to the end of our Lenten journey, remember that we’ll be celebrating God’s goodness and the gifts of faith and new life in an immersion baptism service. On Palm Sunday (April 9th), we’ll be holding one, combined worship service at 10 am, so that together we can celebrate the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on the brink of Holy Week, and witness and celebrate as several people who have placed their faith in Christ take the important step of being baptized. If you are interested in finding out more about baptism for yourself or for your older children who may be ready for this sacrament, please contact me as soon as possible to find out more, as there should still be an opportunity for you to participate.
God bless you as you and your families approach Easter weekend with a sense of anticipation that God will continue to teach and guide us through this story that is nothing less than the turning point in all of human history, and the foundation of our faith, joy and hope.