By Jamie Harms
One of the things that brings me joy in this COVID-19 season is my garden. I planted vegetables to fill my family’s bellies and flowers to add to my table. Along with tomatoes, beets, onions, herbs, potatoes, and salad greens, I planted pumpkins. Over the summer, their big broad leaves spread out over the bed and their vines snaked across the whole garden into the yard. When I got close, I could see the swelling orange fruit hiding under the protective leaves.
In John 15, which we read this week in anticipation of our Abiding series, Jesus is sitting with His disciples during the Last Supper, encouraging them and preparing them for what they are going to face in the near future. He talks about Himself being a vine, one much like my garden pumpkins, and says His friends are like branches off that vine. Although they would face troubles and hardships, they were to remain in Him, to abide in Him as vines and branches do. This constant connection with Him would bring fruitful lives for His glory.
Jesus was not sending His disciples out into the world alone. Instead, His Spirit was to go with them, to comfort and to guide them, for in this world they would have troubles just like we do. But the good news is that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). On that same night, He prayed for His disciples, knowing they would face unwanted circumstances. He knew they would struggle to navigate them on their own and they might be overwhelmed, so He prayed for their protection from the evil one.
When we find ourselves struggling, overwhelmed, and weary from trying to work our way out of our circumstances, or enjoying the beauty that life brings, we need the reminder to abide in the Vine, in Jesus. It is the Vine who provides nourishment, for without Him we could not bear fruit. It is the Vine who provides support and protection for the whole plant. It is remaining in the Vine that gives us joy.
How is it that we, those who follow Jesus, can abide in Him and in His love like John 15 commands us to do? It starts with time in His Word. The Word, the One who was God and made His dwelling among us (John 1), is the Word who cleanses us (John 15:3). As the Word abides in us, our prayers and conversations with our Father are shaped. Prayer becomes a conversation and aligns our wills with His, making us more and more like Him. It is His Word that instructs us in the law and commandments given to God’s people as a gift and as a way to be in His presence. We obey His commandments as a way of abiding in His love. So it is God’s Word that cleanses us, allowing us to abide with Him. It shapes our prayers, and provides a way for us to demonstrate our love through obedience.
Abiding in the Vine takes time and intention, just like my pumpkins did not grow overnight but over the whole summer of being connected to this sprawling, vibrant green vine. We will never abide perfectly on our own, but we can rely each day on the grace given to us from our Vine that we might remain in Him.
Father, Whether my heart is unsettled, at peace, or filled with joy, may I remember to remain with You. You are the One who cleanses and makes me whole. You are the One who produces fruit in my life. You are the One who brings me joy no matter my circumstances. I praise You for being my vine, for nourishing my heart and mind, and protecting and providing for me. May I find rest, abiding in You and Your love today. Amen.