Photo credit: Esra Su , Franfort Germany
Once there were two farmers. One tended his vines in the traditional way, and the other leaned toward a more natural plan. In late winter, the first farmer pruned his vines. He cut them back to just two shoots. It seemed severe, but pruning now meant beautiful grapes at harvest. The second farmer visited his vines as well. He was delighted to see the growth from the previous year. Instead of pruning and tending his branches, he decided to let them go wild. He imagined beautiful fruit at harvest, as well.
When spring arrived, both farmers saw buds on their vines. The second farmer’s buds were more abundant than the first. Excitement swelled in him as he anticipated the harvest. He expected a huge return on his little effort. The first farmer was patient. He wasn’t sure what the other farmer would produce, but he knew how to coax his branches to produce beautiful fruit.
During the summer, the first farmer tended his vine and its branches. The fruit developing was succulent. Although his potential harvest appeared to be less than the other farmer's, his was yielding a quality product. The second farmer noticed his grapes were not developing well. As he examined them, a few even fell off the branches. By the end of the summer, his fruit had withered on the vine.
Why did this happen? If grape vines aren’t tended, they will wither away. Picture, if you will, the grape vine in a vineyard. The vine allowed to grow wild will increase in size, but it won't produce much fruit. The long vines cannot support the weight of the branches, and the grapes will not develop. They “wither on the vine.” This idiom is used throughout literature and means “to be ignored or neglected, and thereby be wasted.” The fruit is destroyed slowly, because it does not have help or support. This how the millennium generation feels.
Our younger generation needs the guidance and support we can give. They need to know they matter. They need to know someone recognizes their presence. Without this recognition, they will drift away. They will stop attending church. They will leave our community, and maybe no one will notice. We must not let them wither and fall away.
Jesus tells us He is the vine, and we are the branches. (John 15) There is no illness in His vine, for Jesus is the perfect Source for growth. He is not weak: He can support as many branches as want to be part of His vine. Any time there is withering fruit, the problem is with us, His branches. The branches need to support each other. When we don’t have the support we need, we can start to wander - even grow wild - and lose our way. Our fruit never fully develops. If the young and tender branch isn't supported with love and care, it can be easily broken off.
The first farmer of the parable prunes the branches. John 15 reminds us this is necessary. It must, however, be done only by the gardener. Jesus teaches us that our gardener is God, the Father. We are not to try to prune one another! We can guide, but our guidance needs to draw others back to God. Cutting remarks that scar the listener should never be used. It is important that any and all help we have to give be offered with love and grace.
Further on in John 15, Jesus exhorts us to give our all for others. Look at verses 12-13. “12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus didn’t suggest we love, He commanded it. However, He does not tell us to do anything He hasn’t done himself. We are to love grandly, as we are empowered by His great sacrificial love.
Father: I lift up to You those who are reading this. May each one hear and understand You and Your encouragement to be the person You created them to be. Oh, Jesus, thank you that You equip us for this great calling: to love Your people. I pray that we reach out to support one another, that we love Your people unabashedly. In Jesus' Name, AMEN.