iCLT News Abiding in the Vine

July 20, 2023
by Bishop Leslie Francisco, III
Minister of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Abiding in the Vine

According to John 15:4-5 in the Common English Bible (CEB), it is emphasized that remaining in Christ and having Christ remain in us is essential. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own but must stay connected to the vine, we too cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Christ. The metaphor of Christ as the vine and us as the branches highlights the significance of our union with Him. This union not only gives purpose to our lives but also allows us to positively impact those around us.

Personally, I have often used this scripture as a guide in my spiritual and ministerial journey. When I find myself lacking productivity, my first examination is not focused on what others are or are not doing. Instead, I first reflect on whether my spiritual life aligns with my hopes, visions, and dreams. Lack of productivity often indicates a distraction caused by circumstances, external forces, or situations that divert our focus from the main thing.

Keeping Christ at the center of our lives helps us stay focused on our mission rather than simply maintaining the status quo. Allowing Christ to be central challenges our preconceived notions, our traditional practices, and may even place us in uncomfortable situations.

Looking at Jesus as our example, we see that He dined with tax collectors who were considered traitors by the Jews and money-hungry extortionists. He also associated with prostitutes and other individuals whom others considered as marginalized outcasts, and was accused of gluttony and drunkenness because of the company of people He kept. Why would Christ allow His reputation to be tarnished in such a manner?

The answer lies in the fact that the gospel was intended for people like them, and by extension, for all of us. We are not called to engage in a pristine and perfect ministry. Instead, we are called to walk alongside those who, like us, struggle with their own issues. This gospel is meant for everyone, including us.

But what about those who claim not to have experienced such degradation in their past? It is important to recognize that, even if it is buried deep within us and well-covered, we all carry our own imperfections. Forgetting this can lead us down the path of the Pharisees who failed to acknowledge that it was once just as offensive for Jesus to associate with them.

I have come to learn that productivity is never a clean process; it requires getting our hands dirty. When Christ is within us, we begin to emulate what He did and continues to do in the lives of His creation, humankind. I am constantly reminded that it is because of Christ in us that we are empowered to sit and dine with those who are different from us. As one songwriter aptly put it, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my need.” I am grateful that Christ is at the core of our Conference, enabling us to bear abundant fruit in this season of harvest.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t bear fruit
by itself; it must remain in the vine. Likewise, you cannot bear fruit
unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If
you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Without
me, you can do nothing.”

~John 15:4-5 CEB

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