It’s the Fruit that Count but the Roots that Matter (John 15.1-8)
The parable of the vine invites us to think of the dryness of the branch that is me, its liveliness or its death, its fruitfulness or its desiccation.
However there is trap in this form of thinking. While it matters that we are fruitful we don’t become fruitful simply by worrying about our lack of fruitfulness. Christian fruitfulness is not produced by nervous effort or frantic activity. Rather the cause of fruitfulness if found in that slightly antique word which we heard repeatedly in our reading –the word ‘abide’. ‘Abide in me’, said Jesus, ‘and you will be fruitful’.
This promise needs to be remembered whenever we think of the parable of the vine and its surgical removal of branches. The parable of the summer fruit bushes is perhaps more helpful to us because it tells us that what matters is where we are planted. What matters is where we abide.
And so I want to offer you not a frightening message about judgment so much as encouraging message about spirituality. Christianity is a faith which encourages a humble self-forgetfulness. Our task as would be saints who know ourselves to be sinners is not to concentrate our attention on either our all too real sinfulness or on our incipient saintliness, but on God.
It’s the fruit that count but it’s the roots that matter. Our spirituality, our life in Christ, our prayer life is properly hidden in Christ with God. It is not a performance, and while we fancy that this person is holier than that person you can never really tell form the outside any more than you can from the inside. But all that is beside the point. The point of faith is not spiritual self-knowledge but trust in God and the faith and hope and love that then begin to flow – together with the patience and the longsuffering, the modesty, generosity and kindness, the self-control and the joy and the peace.
Spiritual fruits –of course – and while we might desire them we should never neither strive for them nor beat ourselves up if we feel that we lack them – we all do.
Our spiritual task, our spiritual priority, is to find the ways whereby we can abide in Christ, rest in the Lord, be open to spiritual nourishment. And this not so that we can be or slip effortlessly into nirvana or to get a short-cut to heaven but so that we can life the new life of Easter in all its challenging, thrilling and dynamic dimensions.
The parables of the vine, the blackcurrant bush and the gooseberry bush return us, like all parables to the love of God and the risen life of Christ. They invite us to open ourselves to the Sprit which sees to it that what is dead and gone in us is removed and that what remains is fruitful in ways which are mysterious to us.
It’s the fruits that count – but it’s the roots that matter.
From: Sermon Starters