Friday, November 06 2020
Just below are the words of a song written by Linda Snow to an old English folk tune. Please read the song before you continue.
You are beloved branches, I am the Vine.
Abide in me, my people, my gifts are thine.
Drink of my living water and be refreshed.
I will fill you with my Spirit, and give you rest.
Without the vine, the branches will never bloom.
They'll bear no fruit or flowers, they'll wither soon.
Without my love dear children, you'll do the same.
You need my living water as flowers need rain.
Let my words live within you, and there I'll be.
To glorify my Father, abide with me.
Whatever you shall ask me, it shall be done.
My joy shall be within you, and all my love.
Yes, my joy shall be within you, and all my love.
You will notice immediately that the singer of this song is Jesus and that the ones who are addressed are his followers, are you and me.
If you are not fortunate enough to hear this music at a service this morning, then you will need to absorb it from within because Jesus is singing about you and me, about us, about Saint John's, about how his people are living out his commission to know him and make him known. Now the song is certainly more than about us and our parish, individually and corporately, but it is not less. He sings about a relationship between himself and us, a relationship of such intimacy that we are his people, beloved branches nourished by that water that issues from the one who is the true Vine.
One of the things we learn in the gospels is that Jesus is not aloof, not just paying us a casual visit from some far off heaven light years away; rather, he is tabernacling among us; he is the light shining his glory in Saint John's and to its people and, in one of Tom Wright's best metaphors, we have become angled mirrors reflecting joyfully that glory back to him. Linda Snow is not hesitant to reveal the real intimacy that Jesus desires with each of us. We are beloved branches who are grafted into him; all of his gifts are accessible and available to us and the people of Saint John's have used those gifts to feed the homeless, clothe the poor, proclaim the gospel, refresh others with the living water that has been given them; and so many have prayed—daily—for others—so that the joy of the living Lord that lies within them may refresh others. As we sang on All Saints' Day, we rest in the sure and certain hope that our Lord is our Captain in the darkness drear of this world, the one true Light.
Linda has Jesus sing to us in the last verse, Let my words live within you and, if you do, there I'll be. In the midst of fear and chaos, in the midst of civil strife and violence, in the midst of plague and natural disaster, why are Saint John's and its people thriving? Because Jesus has promised that those who have chosen to follow him, to believe and trust in him, to drink of his living water, will be refreshed and fulfill his commission to be filled with his Spirit and be for others what he has been and is for them. I don't think that Tom Wright knows either this song or this parish, yet he summarizes succinctly what is transpiring in Linda Snow's composition and at Saint John's: “The living God is going to make his home, as Jesus promised, not just with us, but actually in us. We are the branches extending out into the world, brought to life by God's Spirit so that we too can feed the lambs and tend the mother sheep.”
Under the Mercy,
The Vine & the Branches: Alex Pryrodny, piano