Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dead Wood or Living Vines?

John 15:1-8, the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter is all about bearing fruit.  It is clear in the reading, however, that one does not produce fruit like those above without considerable pruning.

1.) How does the Word function in the text?  Jesus, the True Vine, is announcing many things in this text.  He is announcing his own identity, the identity of his followers, the call of his followers and also warning about the consequences of not bearing fruit.  Lots going on here.

2.)  How is the Word not functioning? This is one of those relatively rare texts where the Word functions fully in all of its capacities:  to bring a Gospel word ("I am the true vine"), a word of Law ("Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned."), and a call to obedience ("Abide in my love.")

3.)  With whom are you identifying in the text?  The branches, of course; those called to bear fruit.

4.)  What, if any call to obedience is there in the text?  It's all about fruit bearing; that's our response to the Gospel word.

5.)  What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by the text?  Apart from Christ/One with Christ.  Dead wood/Living vines.

6.)  The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (IV Press) has some great articles on this text.  Commentary by Cyril and Augustine particularly.  For example, Cyril says, "A mere barren confession of faith still leaves us dead and without fruit."  Or Augustine:  "Whoever imagines that he is bearing fruit of himself is not in the vine."  Lots more where that came from.

7.)  A possible Crossings Community model for this text might be:
        D1  We do not want to abide in Christ because it is painful.
        D2  We believe we can bear fruit apart from Christ.
        D3  Apart from Christ we are dead wood.
        P4  Christ dies on the dead wood of the Cross to restore us to the vine.
        P5  We come to know that only through Christ can we bear fruit.
        P6  We accept the pruning that bears fruit in the world.

8.)  Buttrick might remind us not to try too many moves in this sermon.  Focus on the fruits!

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