I learned that getting a grapevine to where it produces grapes is a lengthy process that includes, among other things, often pruning it back so that the nurture coming to the vine from the ground can get to a limited number of branches (or canes) resulting in larger grapes.
We talked about how our interpretation of this parable changes depending on whether we see the words "you are the branches" as a plural comment to the disciples and from there to the church at large....or to us as individuals. Both, I think, are reasonable interpretations that have a lot to tell us.
Later that evening my mind went to Paul's words when he talked in Romans about the Gentiles being "grafted" onto the olive tree that was Israel. I know that grafting is often used in grape vineyards, so I started thinking about that in terms of the "I am the vine, you are the branches" discussion. So I looked up grafting and grape vines.
I found this really interesting discussion of what is called "cleft grafting." This is when you cut a cleft in the vine and insert a couple of scions (twig to the rest of us) into that cut. The result looks like this:
It was the language in the article though that really got my head spinning (you can find the article here if you are interested https://winemakermag.com/290-field-grafting-grape-vines)
" Grafting involves wounding your vines, and working with open wounds on both the trunk and scion." And " In grafting, the injured tissue of one vine heals to the injured tissue of another. However, just putting two cut vines together does not guarantee a graft. The healing only takes place if the cambium layers of both the trunk and the scion are in permanent contact with each other. The cambium layer is the layer of green living tissue that lies between the bark and the wood. Therefore, the incision you make on your trunk, and the shape you cut your scion must be tailored to allow as much of the cambium tissue on both pieces to contact each other."
My head began to spin. Think about it....What if the only way I can be grafted to Jesus is to take the "open wounds" of my life and lay them in the "open wounds" of Jesus?
God, made vulnerable in God's incarnation in Jesus' life and death on the cross. These together are the "wound" that opens a place for us to be in that grafted relationship as "scion" grafted into Jesus. But for that to be successful, I have to bring my own open wound. I can't just stick a twig down in that cut in the vine. I need to become vulnerable. "The shape you cut your scion must be tailored to allow as much of the cambium tissue on both pieces to contact each other" so that "the injured tissue of one vine heals to the injured tissue of another." This brings new meaning for me to the passage in Isaiah 53:5 that says, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed."
To put this in plain words, I will never be what I am meant to be, I will never become part of the "vine" that is Jesus, until I put my woundedness into His. This is a deeply intimate, personal, often painful process. My greed, my rage, my pain, my childhood wounds...and all the ways I have tried to heal them on my own-my attempts to sooth my pain by myself (we often call that addiction)....all of these have to be exposed and laid in the open wounds of Jesus.
But there is more. This is true of us as churches, and communities, and nations. We will not heal the divisions in this country until we take the open wound of our racism and expose it to the wounds of the Christ who was lynched by the Roman Empire.
Only then, when we personally and corporately have done the painful, risky work of grafting, can the work of growth and pruning begin. The end result of "bearing fruit" begins with that letting our wounds heal to the wounds of Jesus. But on this Worldwide Communion Sunday we are promised that "I am the bread of life" and "those who come to me I will in nowise cast out." (John 6) In grafting a grape vine there is no guarantee that the graft will take. But Jesus promises that when we place our wounds into His, the graft will always be successful. Which means that the only way to be "branches that don't bear fruit and are thrown into the fire" is to refuse to expose our woundedness.
On this Worldwide Communion Sunday, when all over the world Christians are sharing the Euchrist, I pray that we....as individuals, as a nation, as a world can hear the promise of the New Covenant sealed with Christ blood, the result of the wound that opens for our healing, and risk the brutal honesty that will allow us to place our wounds next to His and heal into the wounds of Christ.