Photo by Coe Hutchison

John 15:4–5 (NRSV): “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”

The above passage was part of the gospel reading for Sunday, May 2. In the days surrounding that reading, we were enjoying some wine tasting in Oregon. We saw many vines and learned a little about pruning and training grapes so that they will bear the best possible fruit. It seems the metaphor used in John’s Gospel bears consideration.

If Jesus is the trunk, or the base, of the vine and we are the fruit-bearing branches or canes, we will simply dry up and die if we are disconnected. The trunk, Jesus, is our stability, the source and pathway for our nutrition, our very life. The vine, the roots, the trunk even determine which kind of fruit we will bear.

Each year the canes are pruned and the strongest cane is left over the winter to produce the next season’s fruit. I think of this as God shaping us to guide us into the area and work in life where we will bear the most fruit. How is God calling you to bear fruit in this season? What cane has God left to grow and prosper? What is the most important thing that God is training you for in this time?

Different kinds of grapevines are pruned differently depending on the characteristics of each variety and to some extent upon where and how they are planted. The goal is that the hanging fruit will get the most sunshine. So pruning differs by plant and by area. The canes are pruned and trained so that they will bear fruit and the fruit will hang fully in the sunshine. To me that means that the way God has pruned you and me may be a very individual thing, so that we will produce just the fruit that God is looking for. Just because I am pruned in a particular way doesn’t mean that you should be pruned similarly. Each person’s pruning is unique. I can’t tell you how you should be pruned, but perhaps we can help each other recognize the pruning that God is doing.

Finally, the fruit borne by a vine may differ considerably depending on the ground and the climate (terroir). A Nebbiolo grape vine may bear very different fruit depending on where it is planted. In other words, context matters. The fruit that God calls me to bear in my context, my terroir, may be quite different from that which God is calling you to bear in your context.

So, pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine (or grape juice) and consider these questions.

How do you stay connected to the vine? How do you stay connected to Jesus?

What is the particular sunshine for your fruit? What nourishes you and helps you bear the most luscious fruit?

What is your terroir, your context? Where are you being planted right now?

What kind of particular fruit is God calling you to bear in this season?

God bless you. I know that you are bearing plentiful, rich, and luscious fruit, pleasing to the Lord.