2019 General Assembly - Abide In Me John 15:1-5
Recently, as my grandson and I shared a bowl of grapes and I thought back a few weeks when approximately 3,300 Disciples gathered to celebrate our life together at the 2019 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. The preaching was challenging and inspiring, the music was spirit-filled and uplifting, the workshops and meals functions fed us in many ways. Resolutions, sense-of-the-assembly, general unit reports and “speak outs” added to a fuller understanding of who we are as a collective.
Abide in Me, was the theme, based on John 15:1-5. Rich and varied interpretations of the passage was explored. We reviewed our first 50 years of living with “The Design” and looked back at the significance of the “Merger Agreement” 50 years later. To learn more about “The Design” and “Merger Agreement,” refer to our denominational website, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Before Sunday morning (August 4, 2019), I was going to review some highlights of John 15:1-5. If you’ve read the passage you know - Jesus is the true vine and God the vine grower. God will remove branches connected to Jesus that do not bear fruit; those that bear fruit God prunes, so that they may bear more fruit. The passage points to our covenant with Jesus, the Son and God the Parent, the Creator, the Giver of Life. With this image of a vineyard, Jesus urges, “abide in me as I abide in you” (John 15:4). Abide is the heart of the passage calling for the branches to remain with Jesus, called to follow and remain, just as God has promised to remain with us.
This passage does more than call us to remain with the Holy, with the promise that we as branches will bear fruit. It also calls us to stand by each other; to remain steadfast with one another. If you google vineyard images, you can see how the vintner has connected the branches, one plant to another, stretching for miles. No one plant that is intended to produce good fruit stands alone. The gift of life from the true vine and the vine grower, is intensified and energized when we embrace one another, when we stand with each other in joy and grief; when we advocate and protest on behalf of one another - the poor, the immigrant, the discarded among us. Apart from the true vine we can do nothing; and connected, branch to branch, we can do so much more.
The grief I hold today for the 80 plus wounded and killed over a 13-hour period in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend, is not grief I hold alone. It is heartbreak and sorrow that I also share with my grandson, like those grapes and the sweet fruit we shared at GA. I share with him my righteous anger and a commitment to a new generation to search for ways to move beyond the “thoughts and prayers.” What might I do as one who seeks to be a branch who bears good fruit in witness to the presence of Jesus and the Vine grower in our life together? What might we do together to make this a safer place for over the next 50 years?
Written by Belva Brown Jordan
Associate Dean Claremont School of Theology
Dean Disciples Seminary Foundation Claremont
Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)