The Holy Gospel: May 6, 2012 (Year B)

Read:  John 15:1-8

Meditation:  “How Close Can We Get to God?”

Over the years of my ministry, I have been asked this question (or ones like it) many times.  Some ask with a belief that God is “somewhere out there”—far away and largely inaccessible.  Others have come in contact with new-age teaching which in some versions actually deifies the human being and declares us to be gods.  Most people who ask the question are dissatisfied with both extremes, and are left to wonder if there is another answer.

Today’s lesson provides that answer:  we can get as close to God as a branch can get to its vine.  The answer is Jesus’ interpretation, so we can explore it with confidence.  He speaks of it as a “connection” and “abiding.”  The agricultural picture sticks in our minds and helps illustrate the answer.

A vine and branch are in a natural relationship—nothing artificial, contrived, or forced.  A vine and branch are in a continuous relationship—not a “Sunday” connection.  A vine and branch are in a living relationship—where life is given and received.  They are in a loving relationship—not a contractual one.  They are in a fruitful relationship (e.g. Galatians 5:22-23).  And we also note a bit farther down in the text (15:11) that the relationship is one of joy.

This relationship makes it clear that God is not far away, inaccessible, or irrelevant.  It also preserves the sacred Creator/created (God-human) distinction, so that everything doesn’t end up blended into an existential blob.

But it also invites us into a relationship where (as Paul put it), “for me to live is Christ.”  At some point, we no longer have to put everything into a box—trying to figure what God does and what we do.  We just LIVE—with “the life of God in the human soul.”

This doesn’t mean we try to “take all the glory.” In fact, a branch will always point to the vine as its source for fruit-bearing.  But there is no red line on a grapevine, delineating where the vine stops and the branch starts, or vice versa.  It’s all a part of a sacred wholeness.

So….how close can we get to God?  As close as a branch can get to a vine.  That’s a message which gives us hope for intimacy with God, while still preserving humility.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to The Holy Gospel: May 6, 2012 (Year B)

  1. robgoodridge says:

    The word “ABIDE” is key to this passage. For most of my life, i believed that ABIDE meant “to obey.” Only recently I learned that “abide” means to obey… WITHOUT OBJECTION! When we abide with Christ, we surrender completely. No branch questions the vine from which it comes. Neither are we to question the grace and love that flows to us through Jesus. How can a branch bear fruit, when all it’s energy is used up objecting to how it grows?

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