Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

In Praise of the Do-Gooders

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16 NRSV)

Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16 NRSV)

I was listening to the radio a couple of days ago and I heard a wonderful quote attributed to the author, Iris Murdoch, in which she said, “You can tell someone who lives for others by the haunted look of the others.”

Now, whilst there are a few people about spend so much time trying to organise other people’s lives that they put the fear of God into them, such people are not as common as might be suggested. (However, many years ago I did know a lady who spent so much time going all over the place looking after neighbours and friends that her own family were often abandoned to their own devices).

But one of the cruellest jibes you sometimes hear is when a caring person gets branded as a “Do-Gooder”.

Its cruel because it is a put-down and a way of dismissing the actions of that other person as inconsequential or even somehow ethically questionable. We hear it in connection with all kinds of topics, but it is an especially important topic for Christians because “doing good” is both a characteristic and a command of our Lord, and of people like St Paul and the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews.

Doing Good is our Christian vocation, and it forms the basis of the sense of Christian justice upon which our way of life and our ancient laws are founded.

To be sure, most people perform acts of charity and kindness for all kinds of mixed motives, but what matters is that Good is done – because doing good is the way of the Kingdom and is the direct challenge to the evil in our world.

So to be called a “Do-Gooder” should be a term of the highest praise, not a way of dismissing another person as irrelevant.

For Jesus, doing good was so important that he ranked it much higher than the observation of particular religious practices. The religious leaders were incensed that Jesus had broken the man-made religious laws of the day to carry out an act of pure compassion – to give a crippled woman her life back; but Jesus called out their hypocrisy, pointing out that this child of God’s chosen people deserved to be released from her bondage.

Our own culture prevents many acts of simple goodness taking place by treating them as what another author, Douglas Adams, described brilliantly and insightfully as an S.E.P.

An SEP is something which you can only see out of the corner of your eye. If you try to look straight at an SEP it disappears, only to reappear again as you begin to avert your gaze.

Oh, and the letters SEP stand for “Somebody Else’s Problem.”

So many of life’s problems, which could be significantly healed if we only decided to do some good are dismissed as “not my problem,” or “not our problem”.

Perhaps something topical might illustrate the point.

All this year (2015) people have been commemorating and celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2.

At the end of that war there were millions of homeless, stateless dispossessed refugees from all over Europe and beyond.

Realising the dire need of so many people, governments (most of whom presided over nations whose economies were shattered by years of total warfare) and charities, including Christian Charities, strove to offer new hope to these broken people – new homes, new places to live, new communities. Despite the dreadful nature of a conflict in which so many died, basic goodness helped millions of survivors to rebuild their lives.

Scroll forward 70 years and we find several million more people fleeing from conflict or displaced from their communities because their faces don’t fit. But, we must ask, is there the same determination to help people who are so desperate that they will risk their lives to find safe havens for themselves and their families?

These are the forgotten people; the people nobody wants – because the prosperous nations of Europe, including our nation, have lost the political will to do good for its own sake. Could it be that we have forgotten what our predecessors stood for in that dreadful global conflict?

Whether it be personally or corporately, the words of the writer to the Hebrews should stimulate our thought, our prayer and our action: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Doing good is not about doing acts of charity to make us feel better about ourselves.

Doing lasting good may often require sacrifice of some form or another; for the wellbeing of others, for the healing of God’s world.

NJC

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Discipleship: Growing in Grace

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NRSV)

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. (John 15:8 NRSV)

Not long after we moved into our current home, my wife Denise was looking through a few shrubs and things that were being sold off at a garden centre, and she picked up a couple of English grape vine cuttings for a few pounds.

We put them in patio pots, not expecting much to happen, partly because they had been sold off at the end of season and didn’t look to be particularly healthy specimens. In addition, the latitude at which we live is not especially famous for generating the kind of climate in which grapes are known to flourish. Even though southern England now has some successful vineyards, we’re just a bit too far north.

Sure enough, within a few months one of the vines had died off, but the other had grown a few shoots so, for a bit of fun, next spring we planted it in a sunny spot which was also sheltered from the wind.

Well, it did survive and began to flourish. About three years ago it produced a few tiny grapes. The next year, however, our vine went almost rampant. It took over one wall of the house and started climbing towards the roof. It produced many bunches of grapes hanging from it ready to be harvested.

They are still not the huge bunches that grow in France, Spain and Italy, but at last, after about 8 years, our vine is starting to bear real fruit. It has taken time, a bit of patience and some pruning, but the results are there to be seen.

In the first of these little reflections on the theme of Discipleship (here) we thought about the importance of “belonging” to a loving church family as an aid to our growth as disciples. In our second reflection (here), we considered that the practice of religion – doing and saying all the right things, following all the rules – might well be important, but it was of far less significance than growing in our relationship with God and each other.

We also saw that being a disciple was very much like being an apprentice – we are learning on the job, learning to become the people God created us to be, learning to be God’s people.

We are on a journey of growth, and we might say that we are on a journey of growing in God’s Grace.

But what is Grace, and why do we need to grow in it?

Grace is one of those words to which we attach all kinds of meanings, and which we use in a variety of situations.

It has become popular again as a child’s name at baptisms; we talk about people being graceful, when often we mean elegant; we speak of someone’s graciousness, thinking about their kindness and generosity of heart. Sometimes we use it to mean humility: we say “he had the grace to apologise.”

And, of course, the correct way to address an archbishop (the next time you find yourself in such elevated company) is, “Your Grace.”

But “Grace” in Christian terms has a very specific and technical meaning.

Grace is that which is a free, and completely undeserved, gift from God.

And so for Paul in his First Letter to the Church at Corinth, love, the love he proclaims to the Corinthians, is the greatest of all God’s gifts of Grace.

Sadly, over the years I have seen some ungracious things going on in churches, and I have to confess that, on occasions, I have been a part of them. I have seen Anglo Catholics stamping their feet because somebody hasn’t been called “Father” or some particular ritual hasn’t been carried out properly. Equally, I have seen Evangelicals insisting that others are not Christians because they don’t sign up to a specific ideology.

I have seen liberal intellectuals dismiss with contempt the humble faith of ordinary people; and I have seen Pentecostals who hang signs over their church doors telling people that you can’t be a member of their church unless you speak in tongues.

Name the denomination, name the church, and we’ve all done it – to our collective shame; God forgive us.

For none of this, nor many of the antics and attitudes which can affect the life of any church – none of it has anything whatsoever to do with discipleship.

Because discipleship is about growing in Grace.

It is about gradually shedding those attitudes and activities which cut us off from God and our neighbours, and growing in the self-giving love which is God’s most gracious gift to each of us.

And God knows we can’t do it all at once: that it might take the rest of our lives. That’s why being a disciple is not about being part of a holy club, nor a religious sect, but about being part of loving fellowship seeking a life-transforming relationship with God.

And in order to grow in love, and in those other gracious gifts which God showers upon us, we need to remain united to Jesus Christ, in worship, in fellowship and in the service of his kingdom.

So the analogy of the vine is a very helpful one. (Read John, Ch 15, verses 1 – 8) It is through our relationship with Christ: through our worship, prayer, study of the scriptures and acts of service and forgiveness – that we grow in grace to become more like the people God created us to be.

But, as has been explained so well by Rick Warren, its not all about us.

Being a disciple, growing in grace, is not a lifestyle choice as in following the latest social trend. It is about allowing the life of Jesus, the true vine, to flow through us to nurture and invigorate us. Therefore the analogy of being a part of the true vine takes us further still, because the purpose of our discipleship is to bear fruit as people and for God’s Kingdom.

Many years ago now, as I was anxiously exploring my vocation to ministry, a wise priest said to a group of us, “God does not call you to be successful; but he does call you to be fruitful.”

Our discipleship will not guarantee us success, but it will help us to bear fruit – for the benefit of others: in our homes, in our church family, in our neighbourhood, for future generations of Christians – for the poor, the sick, the marginalised, the abused, the forgotten – those for whom Jesus demonstrated his divine and gracious love.

The purpose of discipleship, the purpose of growing in grace through our relationship with Jesus Christ is not just so that we can feel better about ourselves – though it may do that. Nor is it so that we can be more holy, or more correct in our religious observances – though those things may well happen as a side-effect.

No, the real purpose of our discipleship is to share in the life of the Kingdom, with God and with each other, to grow into the people God created us to be, and to bear fruit for the Kingdom – fruit that will last, fruit that will hopefully outlast us.

Because that is how God is glorified.

NJC

Accomplished

A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:29-30 NRSV)

It is finished. It is all accomplished.

The death of Jesus on the cross is not a failure, but a resounding success. He has done all he has come to do.

He has lived, he has taught, he has healed, he has overcome temptation, he has borne the sin of humanity, he has forgiven, he has offered himself up once and for all.

That is why we may call it Good Friday; because through it the slate is wiped clean and humanity is redeemed.

Through the life and death of Jesus the eternal Kingdom of God is inaugurated for our place and time, and its servant King has been crowned.

But this is not the end of the story, merely the end of a chapter; for soon there will be a rising, a new creation, a new exodus, a new dawn; the dawn of a new adventure which thunders down the ages to our time – an adventure in which we may take part.

Prayer
Lord Jesus,
we have remembered the agony of your Cross.
Through it we have seen your love
and known your saving grace.
May its power guide and strengthen us throughout our lives,
and point us always to the gateway of the Kingdom;
for your Holy name’s sake.
Amen

Thirst

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”
(John 19:28 NRSV)

Bleeding from severe wounds inflicted by the soldiers before and during his crucifixion, and exposed to the burning heat of the mid-day sun; his lungs drawing fluid into themselves as a consequence of this barbaric form of execution, it is little wonder that the dehydrating and dying Jesus complains of thirst.

The irony of the cup of suffering, from which Jesus had told his followers he must drink, is that its consequence is the deep thirst of body and soul.

As life slips away the spirit calls out to that which alone will satisfy: the healing of God himself. He who has brought healing and reconciliation to the world is now in need of God’s healing.

For what do we thirst? If it is for money, power or renown – even in a small sphere of life – then most of us will not achieve it and many will become bitter in later life. Those of us who do achieve these things may have the satisfaction, for a while, of their comforts; but we will cut ourselves off from the rest of humanity. The New Testament is clear on that. For where our treasure is, there our heart will be.

But what if we thirst for God’s Kingdom to come, and pledge ourselves to work for it? What then?

Even as Jesus stands along-side the suffering and the penitent of humanity – identifying with their lot at the hands of the powerful and loveless who believe that might, or money, or dogma is right, we may just see in his thirst, a glimpse of something that mere wine or water cannot quench.

The King

There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Luke 23:38-43 NRSV)

“This is the King of the Jews.”

During the story of Jesus’ arrest and trials a subtle change takes place in the narrative. He is arrested on a charge of blasphemy, but by the time he is nailed to the cross he has been condemned for treason against the Roman Empire. For the occupying power, there can only be one King of the Jews: Caesar.

Only one of Jesus’ crucified companions recognises that Jesus’ Kingdom is of a very different nature, and pays him homage, even as both are dying, and receives Jesus’ blessing: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The Kingdom which Jesus came to inaugurate has no geographical or tribal relevance. It is a Kingdom of eternity which stretches into and beyond our own time.
The criminal who derided Jesus was looking for salvation in this life. He wanted to be saved from death. The penitent thief realised (or at least he sincerely hoped) that death was not the end of the story: that in eternity there is another dimension of life which can be shared in the presence of the true saviour.

His faith revealed that truth to him, and enabled Jesus to offer him words of comfort.
How many of us shout and shake our fists at God, or deny his existence, in the face of death, perhaps especially the death of a loved one. But the eyes of faith will allow us to see beyond our mortal life to the promise of our Lord that we will be with him in Paradise.

That knowledge changes how we see the world, how we live our lives. We live with the vision that this is not all there is, and we begin to see the glimpses of God’s Kingdom all around us.

Loss and Hope

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:3-4 NRSV)

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
(John 14:2 NRSV)

The Festivals of All Saints (1st November) and All Souls (2nd November), certainly come at a fitting time of the year, and they are much more profound than the nonsense which Halloween has become. (Halloween – “All Hallows Eve” – draws its name from the fact that it is the eve of All Saints Day).

But these two festivals engage with us at the levels of our faith and our sense of mortality. The days are shorter and the nights are drawing in and memories of the passing year, and of passing time, come to the fore. And so this time of year is naturally a time of remembrance.

On All Saints Day we give thanks for those men and women, famous and unknown, who have, little by little, changed the world by living their Christian values, by putting Christ at the centre of their world, in their everyday, ordinary lives.

On All Souls Day we give thanks for our loved ones, those who have nurtured us and cared for us, befriended us, protected us and taught us – and we do so especially for those whose loss we have recently borne.

A few days hence, of course, in the UK we remember with pride and thanksgiving those who have paid the greatest price in the wars and conflicts of our land; whose gift and sacrifice has kept us safe; something we so often take for granted.

It is a time for Remembering.

There are many things which we share as part of our common humanity and, sadly, suffering and death is one of them.

And yet, each death, each loss, is such a personal thing. The person we mourn is a husband, a wife, a mum or a dad, a grandmother or grandfather, a child, a relative, a partner, a friend, a lover. The grief is raw and personal, and we think that no-one can understand what we are going through.

And that is true; because no matter how psychologists attempt to label our feelings, grief is a very individual phenomenon. It’s different for each of us, even though there may be some common threads.

The feelings associated with the loss of a loved one cut to the core of who we are as human beings. It can cause us to ask some very fundamental questions about the meaning of life.

Sadly, for example, at such times some people give up on God, because their grief brings out a very understandable sense of anger. They blame God for their loss. How could a “Good God” allow this to happen to me, to him, to her? If this is the place you are in, have a look in your Bible at Psalm 22. See how it begins; see how it ends.

Then, if you have time, take a look at Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 23, verses 33-48.

For other people, however, those fundamental questions of existence and the meaning of life set them off on a journey which draws them closer to our Lord. The pain is just as deep, but somehow it seems a little more bearable because of their hope and trust in the words of our Lord.

That’s what hope is; not a form of wishful thinking, (as in “I hope things turn out for the best.”), but rather a trust in the promises of God.

And we catch just a glimpse of those promises in the two excerpts at the top of this page.

The passage from the Book of the Revelation was written at a time of great tribulation; and yet the writer is able to describe a vision where God has put an end to pain and suffering – death even, and will wipe our very tears away. That passage, and other similar ones, have given great comfort and consolation to millions of people through the centuries, and continue to do so around our world today.

In the passage from John’s Gospel we hear Jesus reminding his bewildered friends of their eternal hope. He speaks of a house with many rooms which he prepares for us, and even offers to be our guide.

He couldn’t be clearer: there is a place in God’s eternal Kingdom for all. It is a powerful metaphor of the truth that death is not the end, but simply a way-point on the journey. And, Jesus went on to demonstrate that truth through his own suffering and death – and his glorious resurrection.

What many of us want to know, when we lose a loved one, is “is that the end? Is there more? Is there really a heaven? If so, is the person I love there and in safe hands?”

The words of Jesus spoken just before his own terrible suffering, offer us that reassurance, that true hope.

No one else may be able to understand what we are going through in our grief – but God does; and, if we allow him to, he will enter the painful silence and emptiness of our hearts, and bring us healing and hope – hope for our loved ones and for ourselves. Hope that God will eventually wipe away our tears, in that house with many rooms; hope, not to give up and retreat into ourselves, but to continue our lives until that promise is fulfilled for each of us.

A New Kingdom

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Matthew 16:23 NRSV)

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. (Romans 12:9-10 NRSV)

When the Romans built the most powerful empire of the ancient world, they ruled brutally and ruthlessly at the point of a sword. Those who stood against them, or who disobeyed their laws were summarily dealt with, and often made an example of.

The whole point of taking those who had been sentenced to death and parading them through the streets to a very public execution at the city gates was to serve as a warning to others. “This is how we deal with those who cross us.”

But, at the risk of sounding like someone from a “Monty Python” film, the Romans were not just savage brutes, they did some positive things as well, copying the Greeks to develop their civilisation into something which many have looked back upon with admiration.

They were, for example remarkably tolerant of various religions and, crucially, they understood that for most people, while they may take pride in their imperial prowess and prestige, other more basic concerns (like food, clothing and safety) would always predominate.

The Leaders also knew that people also needed to feel that they could somehow participate in the imperial enterprise and so the emperors responded by building huge amphitheatres and stadia for the games which people could enjoy. It’s where we get the rather cynical notion of “Bread and Circuses” from – keep the people fed and distracted and all will be well.

However, in the middle of this dangerous and politically charged realm, a new Kingdom was being established; and its founders knew that it would face opposition, even persecution.

And although this Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, had been inaugurated by Our Lord in what would have seemed like the most inauspicious of circumstances, it was, within a very few years of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, already beginning to flourish and grow. Little communities, little groups of people were gathering together to worship God and follow the teachings of his Son Jesus Christ.

For Jesus’ Kingdom would be a very different one from the Kingdom of the Romans, or any other regime for that matter. And it was a Kingdom where behaviour mattered just as much as belief.

The passage from Matthew’s Gospel shows us just what happened to poor old Peter when he tried to apply his understanding of worldly leaders, to the one who would be Lord of God’s Kingdom. Control, manipulation, revenge and the ruthless use of power have no place in this Kingdom.

Although Jesus does talk about the importance of belief, it is the consequences of that belief which matter. God’s Kingdom is built on those consequences.

Jesus explains the values of God’s Kingdom very early on in his ministry, and he keeps returning to the theme, and I find it amazing that so many Christians, in their obsession about believing the “right” things, simply miss what Jesus is saying.

We can say that we believe all kinds of things about God and Jesus, but if our beliefs don’t percolate through into our day to day behaviour and decisions, then our beliefs are nothing more than a bit of personal comfort.

What is required before we can even begin to understand the nature of God’s Kingdom is actually a change of heart and mind to see the world through Jesus’ eyes, the eyes of the Kingdom, rather than through the eyes of contemporary culture. And that has always been true, for the last 2000 years.

That process of changing our hearts and minds so that we think in the ways of God’s kingdom – that process is called repentance. Repentance is much less about anguished breast-beating over real or imagined sinfulness, and much more of a change of heart which reorients us to live the values of the Kingdom.

St Paul, in his letter to the little community of believers in Rome, seeks to add flesh to the bones of their belief. Being part of God’s Kingdom means that they must think again about their attitudes and actions, to each other and to the wider world.

Just listen to some of his words:

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Paul is saying to them, “The life you have in Christ together is a precious gift, because it is nothing less than the life of God’s Kingdom. So you should outdo each other in your enthusiasm to live by God’s life-enhancing ways, the ways of Christ.”

The Christian faith is much more than can be defined by the narrow definition of a religion. I don’t think Jesus came to found a new religion to add to the world’s strife and conflict. At its best, (and I mean at its very best), our Christian faith is much more than a set of religious practices and beliefs.

At its best, it is nothing less than a worldly manifestation of the eternal Kingdom of God.

Please Pray for Iraq

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Please pray for the Yazidi and Christian communities of Iraq, whose people are facing genocide, and for the governments of the West, who have the power to act before its loo late.

Thank you.

Pray for the courage to do what is right: to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Nigel

A New Beginning?

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
(Mark 1:1 NRSV)

That’s it! That’s how Mark does it. The shortest and earliest written of the four Gospels (good news) telling the story of Jesus begins with no fanfare, no preliminaries and not an angel or a shepherd in sight; just a straight message that what follows is good news, life-changing news. There are many people around the world today who would share that view: that in Jesus of Nazareth God has done something new, and as a result the world is a different place.

There is still scope, though, for that good news to be heard by fresh generations, or for it to be heard again as the radical truth which it should be.

We live in a time which is, in one sense at least, not unlike the time in which the gospels were written. In a similar manner to the First Century AD (or CE if you prefer) the Christian message must take its place in the great market-place of ideas which is the modern world. That’s fair enough. If the message has validity then people will listen. In addition, just as the Roman roads of the First Century facilitated a huge improvement in communication, our age is experiencing a communication revolution of its own. There has never been a better time to share the Gospel message.

In each of the reflections in Three Minutes with Jesus you will have the opportunity to think about some aspect of the Christian faith via a short passage from the New Testament. They are not “bible studies” as such, but perhaps a starting point for a conversation or an exploration.

The coming of Jesus did herald a new era: the Coming of the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of love, justice, forgiveness and peace. Even if the followers of Jesus have often failed to live up to those Kingdom values that doesn’t change the basic truth.

But perhaps it is better to say that the coming of Jesus enabled not so much a new start, as a new opportunity for our lives to be lived as God always intended; less of a new beginning, more of a new way to be.

Jesus,
show me that your story is still Good News:
for me, for those I love, for my community
and ultimately for God’s world.
Amen.

God’s Vineyard

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
(John 15:5 NRSV)

The age of individualism is passing, or so we are told. The “crowd” is everything for the millennial generation. However, I’m not sure that the crowd is the same as the community. A crowd may go to a concert, but it may still be a bunch of individuals gathered in one place. A community is something entirely different.

So many of us today think of the Church either as a formal and hierarchical institution, or a place where we go to (as individuals) on a Sunday; or for a wedding or funeral. There is truth in both these concepts, but neither is what Jesus means when he speaks of the community of Christians. Jesus talks about his followers as being part of a vine.

I have a vine growing up the wall of my house and, if I neglect to prune it and trim it, it really can send out shoots in every direction. But it is entirely dependent upon a single stem to connect it to its source of nourishment.

Jesus does not seek followers who are super men or women; or with holier-than-thou pomposity, or who are cleverer or more religious than everyone else. Rather he seeks those who will be the shoots of his vine that will spread and bear fruit. A clergyman who helped me greatly on my journey once said, “God does not call us to be successful. He calls us to be fruitful.”

Bearing fruit happens when we seek to live the values of the Kingdom of God, in the places where we find ourselves from day to day. But the concept of the vine is very important here because, being frail human beings, the best way for us to seek to live out those Kingdom values, is to remain united to the King through worship, prayer, fellowship and discipleship.

The Church is neither a religious building, nor a religious institution; and it has nothing to do with denomination. At its best the Church is the (global) community of people seeking to bear fruit for the Kingdom through its unity with Jesus.

Jesus,
when I forget my need of you,
and neglect my relationship with the people you love,
draw me to the vine.
Amen.