My wife and I, on our way to see our daughter in Geneva, NY, have driven past the many vineyards that line the highway on the western shore of Seneca Lake. They are all quite picturesque, with their carefully spaced rows of grapevines. But it wasn’t until tonight that I was able to see them up close.
But only so close. We are here, at one of the wineries, to eat gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and listen to live music as the sun sets. Alison and our daughter head to the reception, but I turn toward the rows of vines. Signs politely instruct visitors not to walk in among them, so I kneel just outside and take photos.
It must be so satisfying to have such a crop. I immediately think of the passages in the Old Testament where God laments about the poor outcome of his carefully tended vineyard – his people. (Isaiah 5: 1-7). This must have been what God desired: tightly packed clusters hanging heavily along each row of vines.
A bountiful harvest.
And, of course, I think of Jesus. In John 15, he picks up on the Old Testament imagery and makes it personal:
“I am the true vine… you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1, 5)
I see in front of me what he means by “bear much fruit.” I have no vested interest in the profusion of grapes that spreads out before me, but it still fills me with a surprising delight and satisfaction. We must be hard-wired to react joyfully to abundant crops.
How I want my life to produce this kind of overflowing blessing. We believers are pressed up against a barren and scarred world, one that longs for soul-satisfaction, for true change, for a vital connection to God.
The fruit of the Spirit, visible in our lives, is to be evidence of the transforming power of such a connection. It’s not the dry toast of Pharisaic moral correctness, but the sweet draught of grace and goodness and Jesus.
Later, as the three of prepare to leave, I return for one more photo. The lowering sun makes the fields glow. And as I frame the nearest vine, a ray of light dramatically strikes it, like a spotlight on a stage.
Immediately, my thoughts go to the drama of Jesus’ transfiguration, with its display of brilliant light and a voice from heaven. Only here, I imagine the voice saying, “This is my chosen vine. Remain in him!”
For none of the sweet abundance that I long for – that Jesus died for – is possible on my own.
Only the true vine can supply it.
Jesus, you are the true vine. There is no other source of the abundance we long for but you. Produce your life in us!
Reader: When do you experience this feeling of abundance?