by Fr. Jack Estes
“Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine neither can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15:4
Every winter at our house is tree trimming time. We have several fruit trees that need pruning in order to be fruitful in the spring. In the back corner grows a massive fig tree, planted over fifty years ago by the first owner of the house. The trunk of the fig tree is about two feet around, and the roots go down and out deep into the soil. In fact, figs and grapes put down roots into the substrata far below the topsoil. This makes them ideal to grow in hot climates where topsoil is sparse – like Israel.
Last week I completed the task of trimming the fig tree. The branches are cut off and piled high near the base of the tree: no longer alive; no longer growing upward from the trunk; no longer connected to the roots. They will never again produce figs. Now they are just a disposal problem.
This image of the branches and the vine is one Jesus chooses to make a profound point to his disciples. Their life depends on remaining connected to him. In order to continue to grow upward and be fruitful they must abide with him. He is the solid trunk that holds them up. He is the root that supplies the life-giving water from deep within the heart of God. Once they cut themselves off from him the substance of their lives withers.
Abide is an interesting word that Jesus uses to depict this principle of spiritual life. This is not a word in common usage in our time. I don’t often say, “I’m going to abide at my house on my day off.” Or “Why not come over for dinner, and we can abide for a while.” The fact that the word is unfamiliar gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect more deeply upon the meaning. Like the metaphor of the branches, abide carries a deeper meaning connected to a fruitful life.
Abiding in the Lord is something that takes time. We cannot have a five-minute abiding session and be nourished in the Lord. Abide has a living quality to its meaning, that is to say a sense of being at peace. To abide is to be unhurried, content, sharing each moment as they come. Abiding with Jesus means to remain connected to him in the sacrament of the present moment.
It’s not surprising that the word abide is no longer common in our contemporary world. Who has time to abide! Instead we are driven, running, striving to get everything done, so we can keep up with the next thing on the agenda. This Lent take a moment to get reconnected with the deep roots of God’s love. Abide in the Lord, unhurried and unharried, until the life from the root revives you once again.
Lord teach me how to slow down and abide with you in every moment of the day
Like the branches on the vine, help me to remain connected to you,
So that my life will be fruitful in your kingdom. Amen.
Fr. Jack ministers at St. Luke’s Anglican Church