I was asked to share a devotion this week for another Christian organisation. Their theme for the year is Spirituality that thrives. They suggested I speak on John 15 – where Jesus says I am in the vine, remain in me, and I in you, and you will bear much fruit.
The night before, an old friend rang Marianne, my wife. She happens to work for that organisation. My wife and she might speak only a few times a year. She shares with my wife that she is anything but thriving at the moment. Lockdown is draining, removes the joy out of work, and taints many things.
It caused me to rethink John 15. What do we know about vines? They are deciduous. They grow like crazy in spring, bear fruit in summer, lose their leaves in autumn, and lie dormant over winter.
One of the dilemmas I have with this whole ‘thrive’ and ‘flourish’ vibe is that it presumes life can be lived in a forever season of spring coming into summer. That we have a right to avoid autumn, that winter is evil, and we can blame the government or our leaders or someone else because we got here.
Last year we looked at the book of Ecclesiastes. There we read that ‘under the sun’ (that is, in life as we experience it) seasons come and go. “There is a time for everything…. a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”. (Eccl 3:4)
If, like me, Covid restrictions feel more like winter, and you are not quite flourishing at the moment, don’t become bitter or despairing. Branches need the odd season of dormancy to bear fruit again. Just stay connected to the vine. Remain.
Rev David Rietveld