The "I am" saying of Jesus we looked at at church tonight was from John 15:5 where Jesus says, "I am the 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" (NIV).
It's a saying I've heard preached on many times. But typically when I hear the passage talked about, the preacher at least indirectly says that I'm an individual branch on the vine. I need to stay grafted to Jesus. He is my source of life. If I'm abiding in Him, I'll do good works (bear much fruit).
These are all good and true ideas. But there's more to the passage than that. When Jesus said "you" He wasn't talking to just one person. It wasn't an individual "you", it was a plural "you all" (or "y'all" depending on where you're from). A grape vine doesn't have just one branch. It has many.
We all are grafted together onto the true Vine. Jesus is a place of unity. He is the source of life and nourishment for all of us.
Pastor Jan noted tonight how hard that fact is that we're all one in Jesus. Some of those branches are our enemies, because the Vine is all inclusive. The branches include republicans and democrats, socialists and capitalists, the poor and the well-to-do, gay and straight, oppressor and victim, misogynist and feminist, fundamentalist and liberal, male and female, free and slave, those with health care and those without, etc. Jesus welcomes all sinners to abide in Him.
Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers (John 17). We're told that we're one in the Spirit. But often times it feels like the church is more separated and divided than united.
Ideologies will never unite us. We will only ever be united by the vine: Jesus. Without Him we have nothing in common, we have nothing to unite us. Christ is our point of unity.
I think what this means is that we as followers of Jesus need to talk less about theology and ideologies and more about what He is doing in our lives. Both our individual lives and our lives together as a community. Therein lies our point of unity. No one can discount what Jesus has done for you or for us.
Yes, we need theology to help us understand our experiences. We need ideologies to help us guide our desire for justice, righteousness, freedom, and peace. But we won't ever all agree on theology or ideologies. The church, however, can and must agree on Jesus. We must abide in Him solely.
And we must do it together. Not as several vines with one branch on each, but as one vine with many branches. Abiding. Belonging. Connected.
Pastor Jan quoted St. Augustine from his Confessions: "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee." Our hearts are restless looking for connection. We desire a place of belonging.
Sometimes we look for that connection in inappropriate, unhealthy, or unsatisfying places. I know I have. We all want to belong...we've wanted it since we were young children.
There is one place, though, where we can find true connection that will satisfy: The Vine. Christ is our place of belonging. And it is not just belonging to Him, but belonging to Him alongside others to whom we are connected through the Vine. He is the place we abide and can find rest.