I’ve had it! I had a Volkswagen Beetle. Not because I wanted it or picked it out exactly. I tried my best to give some input but ultimately I had it because my mother had agreed to cosign the loan. I had it for a couple of years and took with it all of the things that people may or may not giggle and say when they see an 18, 19 year old driving a volkswagen beetle. I took with it all the times when my mother rightly reminded me that the car payment would be due and maybe I shouldn’t be looking to buy that thing I had my eye on.
Then came a great and glorious day. I was driving home from getting a haircut and knowing myself in college, most likely also dyed some strange color, as well and there it was! RIght there! The most beautiful thing I had ever seen… because I hadn’t met Alissa yet… at the end of the driveway back to a dairy farm was a jeep. I slammed on my breaks so fast I had to see more. Upon closer review it was a 1991, it had most of it’s body panels free from significant rust or dents, it was getting better and better, it had 190,000 miles on it. So i could have faith that that engine was broken in. It was a stick shift, because unless you live in America’s capital of traffic, why would you drive anything but? I talked to the farmer and the best thing of all. I could buy this glorious vehicle all on my own. I was free. I was free as a bird. I already had an apartment, was a student, had two jobs, and the last thing I needed to do was get free from that co-owned volkswagen beetle which I sold as fast as I could. There was no going back.
We live in a world that puts a massive premium on independence. Independance is the new IT thing to achieve. Recently became the first time in American history that more adults shared an address with their parents than their spouse. There are more Americans with college degrees than Americans living on their own. The new shiny way to prove you’ve really made it is to cut the strings, pull your boot straps up, move out, and buy an old jeep. Independance is great.
Right there we get this strange Gospel lesson flying in from the middle of nowhere telling us that to bear fruit, or be a disciple of Jesus we need to be a branch tied to the vine that is Jesus and connected to all the other Christians everywhere. This is part of Jesus words of comfort and support to his disciples before his passion that we recall for a couple of weeks during the Easter season.
That’s all great, but my goodness. These amazing Easter Gospel lessons, and now I’m left picturing being stuck in place with my dad over here, and my mom over here, and so many others being so close and I can’t escape?!?! But I bought a Jeep! I’m supposed to be independent!
Jesus does not say “I am like a vine” he is the vine. God is a farmer and he is planting us and all creation. Israel read Psalms and OT lessons about being like vines and even had a massive gold vine in their temple. When Jesus says this he is shocking them. He is claiming to be God. “abide in me” literally means to stay put. But we always try to cut loose and be independent. We want to achieve and go our own way, we want to look up at our I love me walls of accomplishment over the mantle or behind the desk and assert what we have done! We want to always remember that we bought a jeep!
About a week after I bought that Jeep, it wouldn’t start. Well what choice did I have? I called dad to save the day. He came out to where I was stranded and handed me a hammer. Then he kneeled down and pointed at the starter. He told me to hit it a couple times and then try to start it again. Explained that I bought a farm Jeep old as dirt that had a flat spot on the starter. I could borrow the hammer for whenever it would happen again until I could save up for a new starter. Independance was great. What was really great here though was dependence. I thought I cut loose and went my own way but I didn’t go anywhere at all. I was still anchored into the family and in some ways we’re never exactly done learning lessons from our parents, and those close to us. Jesus is reminding us of something like this.
Acting independent from God can produce good things success, fame, power, are all things that are regularly achieved by people without God. However, none of these things can ever achieve the kind of fruit the God is teaching us about in this text. The fruit he’s talking about in the text are the kind of things we could never do without the power of God living in and through us. What we can achieve with God goes beyond our wildest dreams and ends up in eternity with Him. Amen.