Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Vines of Life

Dear Friends,

Jesus’ analogy “I am the vine and you are the branches” is a favorite, isn’t it? Not pumpkin vines or tomato vines or wisteria or trumpet vines, but grape vines that produce food for eating, and for wine – Eucharistic wine and crisp table wine to make our celebrations festive.

We remember with delight Jesus’ experience at the wedding feast at Cana, and how Jesus turned ordinary water into fine wine, not cheap wine. We have the testimony of the steward of the wedding on that point: “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now. (John 2.10)” God knows how to make only good wine.

It would be easy to focus solely on the connection of vine and branches to Christ. But here are a few other lessons about vines and branches that make us appreciate even more that connection.

Vines need to be pruned. In early April, I took myself up a footpath to a vineyard in the Finger Lakes. The pruner had already been through and had sniped away the long winter growth and tie-twisted the vines to the wire fencing. These shorn vines looked as though they could produce nothing. But patience and time would tell. When we think about the people we love or think of ourselves, for that matter, we know that pruning is necessary for life. Sometimes stories of pruning are tender or funny or heart wrenching. There have been times when family and friends have seen and heard their loved ones in the throes of pruning, caught their breath, hoped and prayed as their loved one went on.

The second fact is that vines are always exposed to the elements. There is nowhere to hide from the intense heat, beating hail, freezing cold and determined wind. Every one of us is exposed to the elements – every kind of weather – spiritual, social, cultural, illness, our own and others, the little deaths and the big deaths of life. We’ve come through those times and here we are, bearing fruit.

You and I live and thrive in a biblical land where God is the keeper of the vineyard. This is the sentiment we find in Isaiah 27.2-3: “The pleasant vineyard, sing about it! I, the Lord, am its keeper, I water it at every moment. Lest anyone harm it, night and day, I guard it.”

You and I are the Finger Lakes region with its vines growing abundantly on the hillsides overlooking the lakes. The storms and the sun have shaped us.

Catherine of Siena, living in Tuscany with its splendid vineyards, was moved to write:
The sun hears the fields talking about the effort,
And the sun smiles and whispers to me,
Why don’t the fields just rest,
For I am willing to do everything
To help them grow?
Rest, my dears, in prayer.

Let us, this summer, rest in confidence that we grow under God’s tender watchfulness.

~ Sister Joan Sobala

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