I saved my last weekend yard clean-up project for today: tidying up the tangle of clematis on the trellis out back. I thought if I just cleared out the dead elements of the rambling Ranunculaceae that had wound itself around several sections of a lattice structure built for its growing pleasure, I would end up with enough of the long-leafed, white-bloomed vine to grace the edifice and still provide a bit of shade on the exposed back patio.
I figured about a third of its branches and leaves were dead, but as I clipped my way through the vertical jungle I found that more like two-thirds had not survived whatever it is that takes a dislike to clematis. I whacked it back to its roots (actually the roots of three vines twined together years ago) and planned a few hanging plants to fill in the lattice-work until the vines wind and twirl themselves back to their former glory.
As I wielded clippers (and ax) for about an hour, taming the tangle of both green and gray branches (in some places as thick as my thumb), I quickly came to favor the dead and dying ones. They were much easier to yank free, snapping almost effortlessly off the vine. The still-healthy green branches, on the other hand, gave me quite a bit of resistance. Of course, I felt bad they had to go, too. And in the process I could not help but think of another sort of vine and how easily dying and dead growth breaks away from this kind, too, and how hard it is to pull off good growth…
THE JESUS VINE
Jesus explained the importance of “remaining in Him” as the spiritual source of life through this analogy: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NIV). I got to thinking how just as healthy “branches,” i.e., believers, are hard to pull away from Christ, branches that cease to draw from Him as their spiritual life source are easy to break off. Indeed, at “pruning time,” they will be separated and discarded (6).
But what does it mean to remain “in Him”? A little further down in chapter 15, Jesus explains it this way: we remain in Him if we “abide” (meinete, Strong’s, 3306: “continue”) in His “words” (rhemata, Strong’s, 4487: “sayings, matters, words”). In short: to remain a healthy, nurtured, strong—and not easily damaged—branch of the “Jesus vine” is to put faith in and dependence on His teachings. And to practice them.
Christ is the spiritual vine on which we depend for support and for food. And as we weave His instructions and His ways into the lattice-work of our lives, relationships, ministries, and work, we thrive spiritually—and bear fruit.
Let Jesus nurture you today!
Graphic from the public domain