August Article

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

I’m writing from home, overlooking the garden. It’s a scaled-down thing this year—so much is pulling at time and shuffling priorities in this season.

I’m reflecting on a passage from John 15; the Lord gives an earthly picture of spiritual truths. Most of what He speaks, I have seen illustrated in this garden.

When a branch is removed, it goes on the burn pile. I’ve not seen much root itself, once cut off and tossed. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (:6)

If I want a good harvest, I need to trim back healthy plants. Showy foliage is worthless for filling my table. “…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (:2b)

The branch separated from the parent-root is not destined for survival. Cut a strawberry runner too soon, and watch the inevitable result. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (:4)

There is joy in seeing mature plants produce a crop; to observe their responsiveness to your direct, purposeful  care. It’s also uplifting to hear that your work is good. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (:8)

May we all reflect over these words of our Lord, confirming His truth in His garden, where we abide under His loving care.

July Article

…You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.   1 Peter 2:5

They were useless; irritating to deal with when working around them. No, not people… but stones. The perimeter of my backyard was loaded with off-cast stones, tossed to the edge of the lawn much as a farmer would do when clearing a field.

One day, when constructing a fire pit, I pried out these stones and brought them together. I carefully stacked them up around that ring, and they received purpose. Together they form a good thing; united in a structure. From worthless to worthwhile, by building them together: my hand, my design.

We as the church are likened to stones, gathered and placed on purpose. The Lord Himself is the builder, and owner:

…but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Hebrews 3:6 

…I will build my church… Matthew 16:18

It is a truth worth meditating upon: We are not called to isolation and solitary living, remote as a stone on the periphery. The Lord has saved us for community: together we are built up by His hand, together we offer worthy sacrifices to God, together we minister for His praise and glory.

Together.

In a day of individualism and distance, in a culture that champions independence and arm’s-length relations, we have serious responsiveness and yielding to attend to. Apart from Him, we are only a stumbling block.

The master builder presides over His dwelling: …we have a great priest over the house of God… (Hebrews 10:21.)  In Him, we become—together—the Body of Christ.

June Article

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.  1 Corinthians 12:27

We pray much for the ailments of these bodies. Many requests are submitted weekly for prayer concerning physical conditions. We are highly attuned to the needs of the body, and understand the physical drive and benefit of wholeness, health and well-being.

It is no mistake that in several locations of our New Testament, the illustration of the church as a body is shared. You can extract from those passages many deep themes for the men and women that compose the body: Unique parts, all needful, attention paid to all, proper exercise of all, normal natural growth an expected process.

Of special importance to our identity is the incredible news that we are Christ’s body. Through the Spirit of Christ residing in us, we are His presence in this world. As a quartet once sang, “When the world looks at me, do they see Jesus?” That is a fair question, for those apart from the church will see something as they look at this collective. Is it Christ, or something—someone—completely different?

Another important truth of the church revealed in Scripture is the admonition that Christ is the Head of the body—His body—the church. In an age where basic biology is hardly understood, this bears explanation. A body needs a head, can only have one head, and is responsive to the directive of the head, every moment that it lives. A body not responding to its head is desperately ill, not surviving long or well.

Perhaps these brief words will encourage us all in our praying, to remember not only the physical needs, but the Spiritual link we share in being this Body of Christ. That need for wholeness, health and well-being is the great priority.