Jesus often used agricultural metaphors with which his followers were familiar. The vine and branches in John is one of the many beautiful images used by Jesus to teach his message:
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
When we are in union with the Risen Cosmic Christ we are like fruitful vines in the vineyard. From these very vines rich wines will flow. I have read this passage many times; however, I find the footnotes in the Anselm Academic Study Bible to be very helpful. One reviewer ranked it above the Oxford Study Bible. My feeling is that the scriptures are so rich with deeper meaning that we can never have enough study bibles. In fact, I had never given much thought to the part about withering, unfruitful branches being thrown into the fire. When vines died and withered they were hung up to dry so they could later be used for fuel.
God loves us and finds us before we can find God. There is never really a time when we are withering if we place ourselves in God’s presence. We can do nothing to earn avoid withering. The only thing we can do is to constantly place ourselves in the presence of the Presence. The Vinedresser will grow us. The Vinedresser will nurture and nourish us so that we produce good fruit—the choicest wines of the Reign of God. When we drink from the cup we are one with the Risen Cosmic Christ without whom we can do nothing, nada, zilch!
The first reading from Acts 15 is also noteworthy. Would that our elected officials and we the citizens could learn how to resolve our disagreements the way the early church did. The controversy, fueld by Pharisees who had become followers of the Way, was whether Gentile converts had to follow all the Jewish ritual practices. Note that the Pharisees main thrust was to add requirement upon requirement to the Torah. Jesus did NOT reject Jewish Torah practice, especially the care for neighbor thrust of the Deuteronomic strand. Jesus was a Jew and followed the Torah; however, he was vehemently opposed burdening people with ritualistic requirements.
Paul and Peter understood that God’s new reign was inclusive. All are welcomed in the Kin-dom and at the banquet table. Paul did not send angry emails to James and the church in Jerusalem. He and his companions went up to Jerusalem—a show of humility and a sign of openness to resolving differences. Once they met, the matter was resolved on the side of inclusivity with minimal restrictions. How wonderful it would be if the body politic and the elected leaders could build bridges instead of walls!