“I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The picture of the vine is embedded in Jesus’ farewell speech to the disciples, where he makes it unmistakably clear that difficult times are coming. Jesus will suffer and die. The disciples will be left alone in the world, full of grief, need, and fear of how to proceed. The word remain is throughout Jesus prayer for his disciples.
As I read this prayer I could not help think about the last two months of the need and the demand for me to remain in my home. The challenges of no more physical contact, no longer shopping, no longer gathering to worship or to do Bible Study, no passing the peace, or even walking is limited some, and taking the greatest precautionary measures.
Having been asked to remain where I am at home, within my own four walls, seems like it is increasingly becoming a prison during these days of the coronavirus pandemic. So as I read Jesus words that unless I remain in him I could not bear much fruit, it seemed as if I was getting a new insight into the need to remain in my home during this coronavirus pandemic. I began to ask myself questions of how remaining at home could possibly mean that I could be more fruitful in my ministry, my witness. Then it came to me. During the last two months of staying within the four walls of my home I have called more people that I have not seen in years to check on them, I have called more people from our church community that I often saw only at a distance in church. I have studied the Bible more, prayed more, listened to God more, sat on my back porch and awed at the beauty of nature and the sound of the birds. I have written more notes to friends, paid closer attention to birthdays of family friends and neighbors by sending cards. Remaining has not been a closing down, but an opening up of being connected to Jesus the vine, and others and it has produced much more because I was required to remain in my home.
There is definitely a connection between the need to stay at home and staying on the vine. I am amazed at how incredibly quickly conditions have arisen that seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. Everything seems different. Almost like a mantra, the media repeat that this crisis will change our society for the long term.
At home, secured in our own four walls, we have a lot of time to think about what will change – and what should stay. I can see that this call to remain has been a benefit to my spiritual life of staying connected to Jesus and I hope that when things begin to open up, so that I do not need to remain at home all the time, I will be more attached to the vine and stay attached so that I will not let the lure of the business of the outside world keep me from remaining in Him.
The time of staying home, of forced deceleration in our activities offers us the chance to find new access to faith, to realize that we have always been attached to the vine of Jesus. This realization gives us peace, comfort and serenity. Everything that is valid in the world, wealth, success, reputation, is transient and can keep us from remaining in Jesus. In fact, what ripens on the vine has a future. If we stay in Jesus, our life bears fruit that stays.
- How have you remained in Jesus during this time of being at home?
- What have you learned about your relationship with Jesus during this coronavirus pandemic?
- How can we remain in Jesus when our lives return to the norm of business as usual?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.