Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

John 15:1-17:

”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I 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. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."

This not so great example of my horticultural skills is one of my lilac bushes. Now, my other lilac bushes look fine; the one right next to this one, in fact, is gorgeous. This one, ehhh...not so much.

It took a bit of a beating a couple years back and has just now started to bounce back. The tree to the right of it dropped a big limb on it in a storm one night. This part of the yard flooded out last summer and the "13 inches of rain in one day in Kirksville" got it even more bedraggled. I wasn't even sure if it was going to make it this year. But as you can see, there's a little life left in it.

I probably got to worrying about this bush last fall. For starters, when I'd dump the ashes out of my chiminea, I started putting the ashes at the foot of this bush. My late grandpa thought "wood ashes cured everything" when it came to yard plants. Then, this spring, I saw the ends of some of the branches start some leaves, so I knew it was still alive. When it had blossomed, out came the loppers. I have, at this point, pretty much lopped everything dead off of it.

If you notice at the bottom of the picture, some new shoots are coming up around the base. So, barring catastrophe, I think it will make it.

The stuff I lopped off, well, guess has been going in my chiminea as make more enjoy my fire and have more wood ashes to feed some other yard plants. Yup, I put the withered branches in the fire and burned 'em. Hmmm.

As you all know, I have and to some degree continue to have a problem with the Gospel of John. One of the things that bugs me is it is full of a lot of stuff that people pass off as "judgment." You know...wheat/chaff, cast stuff out, burn it in the fire, fiery flames of Hell and all that stuff that too many fundamentalist Christians seem to groove on, and shove the Gospel of John in your face the whole time.

But right now, this evening, I am sitting by my now semi-famous chiminea (you've been sitting with me all fall and winter, and now into spring), and a few of those lilac branches were used to start my fire. I don't have any malice towards those withered lilac branches. They just aren't any good on my lilac bush anymore! In fact, I used them to a good start my fire that I am now enjoying. The ashes will go to feed my other yard plants. This is NOT consigning them to Hell at all. I'm just finding a new (and good) purpose for them.

So, in that sense, I'm not sure the fundamentalists are really on target with this one. Yeah, I cast them out from the lilac bush, but they are being used for good, and really, a better purpose than the one they were occupying previously. Their presence harms the bush, but, burned into ashes, they can help the same bush.

Likewise, I don't think God casts out his creation that he loves. How does this work after we die? I don't know; neither do you; no one really knows. I think there are some people who like to THINK they know, but I think that is to assuage their own sense of judgment than anything else. I think I'm okay "not knowing." I just know that if I am in the image of God, and if I am taking these dead, withered branches and using them for a good purpose, I guess I can have enough faith and trust that God knows how to use dead, withered branches for good purposes.


I've always loved this passage of John, more for the sense of God's spirit being the sap that runs through my veins and helps me bear fruit. But this was an interesting take on the "consigned to the fire" aspect.

Yeah, Ruth, I'm sitting by my fire right now and thinking it's just not as judgmental as people like it to be. Big Hmmmmm.

A really good way of thinking about the vine story, thank you.

It is certainly interesting for me to read that post. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

It is extremely interesting for me to read the article. Thank you for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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