In our first reading today from Acts 15, we see more controversy in the early Church about whether or not new believers needed to be circumcised. To settle the matter, Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem to bring the matter to the Apostles. Why? Because the hierarchy needed to decide the matter. In today’s Gospel reading from John 15, we hear Jesus say, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” This gives us a good opportunity to meditate a bit today on botany, and how well this saying of Jesus relates to us.
Have you ever tended plants, particularly vines? They are interesting. You can hack away at the outer branches, but the vine is still able to put out new growth. But once the branch is cut off from the vine, it is finished. Done. Kaput. Jesus talks about this relationship in John 15. But there is another aspect of the vine and the branches, one that I have noticed in the plants that I have tended, and one that I think is relevant to this conversation.
If you partially cut a branch, it can still live. There is certainly damage done. And the branch is not as robust and healthy as it was before the cut. But it will survive and, in time, grow back and become healthy again. I believe this is how our relationship with God is. Each time we sin, we nick the branch. It is not cut off completely, but damage is done. And if you keep chipping away, eventually the damage becomes irreparable. But if you stop nicking the branch (read: repent and stop sinning), then healing begins and wholeness becomes possible again.
Father, we’re sorry for those times that we chip away at our relationship with Jesus by sinning. Help us to repent and experience healing and wholeness. Amen.