I use this wonderful phone app called Pray As You Go (https://pray-as-you-go.org). It’s a lovely mixture of music, scripture, and guided meditation that on a daily basis reminds me of who I am, and Whose I Am. It’s provided by the Jesuits, and so from time to time there are readings from what we Reformed folk understand to be the apocrypha… but hey, it’s a free app, and listening to the occasional deuterocanonical text reminds me that we’re all from the same vine if different branches.
Which, interestingly enough, was today’s reading. Vines, branches, fruit… pruning. In John 15, Jesus uses the illustration of a grapevine to help the disciples understand the importance of being deeply connected to the branch in order to thrive.
The word Jesus uses (meinate) is in the plural. This abiding is not to be done by individuals, but by a group. It’s not a suggestion, but an imperative. We are called to abide.
Abide is a weird word in English. The top three synonyms for abide include: accept, stand for, and tolerate… which doesn’t exactly work for this verse. The better translation in this context is to remain, or to dwell. We are called to dwell in Jesus just as Jesus dwells in us.
This past week there have been two mass shootings. One in Buffalo at a Tops, the other in a Presbyterian Church in California. The first shooter is a white supremacist who acted on his belief that Whites are being replaced by Blacks. The latter shooter is Chinese and his victims Taiwanese, and his actions reflect a conflict that began between those two nations after the second world war. Both men acted from a place of hate.
Jesus calls us to abide.
Not wait or to bide our time.
The lovely English voices on my phone app this morning asked the question: “What does it mean to you, to abide in Jesus and for him to abide in you?”. In the wake of these two racially motivated shootings I wonder what it means for the church to abide in Jesus. Not accepting. Not tolerating. Not biding our time… but actually being the church of Jesus Christ.
The lovely English voices continued their gentle questioning: “Right now, do you identify more with the withered branch, or the fruitful one? Talk with Jesus about this. What does he want to say to you about your abiding?”
Good questions. Hard questions. Important questions.