“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
It’s a cheerful sign: tiny yellow blossoms appearing on our tomato plants. Botanical authorities inform us that tomatoes are “the fruit of a vine,” as are the cucumbers, squash and beans in our gardens. The fruit Jesus mentions in the verse above isn’t specified, though we understand that he used grapes to illustrate the relationship between the source of our life and the kind of life we live: branches produce fruit only if they stay connected to the vine. Grapes and tomatoes, or love and joy: it’s interesting to think of the blessings growing in your life, and the signs of God’s abundant life.
The word “abide” in the verse above may remind you of that great hymn, “Abide With Me,” a plea for God’s saving presence: “When other helpers fail and comforts flee, / Help of the helpless, Lord, abide with me.” That’s a good prayer for times of sickness and sorrow, and for all of us these uneasy days when we feel cut off from future plans, cut off from work and financial security, and cut off from one another. The close companionship of someone who loves us is a treasure. By faith we know in times of fear and grief we can call on the source of our life who knows us best, trusting that the Lord will bless us and keep us.
To abide is also to take time. Just as yellow flowers give way to green then red tomatoes, so our relationships mature given the right time and care. Any close relationship requires work over time. It’s that way with friendship, with marriage, with family, and with God. Our spiritual growing season is a long-term relationship. Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” makes this clear by translating Jesus’ invitation as, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.”
Today may be a good day to reflect on what’s been feeding your soul lately. Where do you go to get recharged? Where do you abide?
Steven Spell is a Chaplain with Amedisys Hospice.