May 18, 2022
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts reveals the tensions in the Church between Jewish and Gentile believers. For the Jews, the ritual of circumcision was a key expression of covenantal faith. Some felt it was necessary for Gentile converts to undergo the ritual in order to become Christians.
Like all start-ups, the Church had many friction points which required decisions about what was essential and what was only customary. Those customs being thousands of years old, the decisions become even harder. Readings later this week describe more conflict points.
Nevertheless, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and despite the venerability of custom, the nascent Church was able embrace a new reality rooted in Christ’s inclusive love.
These kinds of philosophical and theological tugs-of-war have accompanied the Church down through history. Some of them have helped reveal deeper insights into our faith. But, as in all human communities, some of the tugs have been motivated by fear, greed, power, and other selfish interests.
Watching how the early Church handles their particular situation may give us hints about how we should handle them today.
In our Gospel, Jesus makes clear what is essential and inviolable to the faith:
I am the vine, you are the branches.John 15:1-2
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
I think “Remain” is a beautiful word. In the dictionary, it will be defined as ‘stay’. But it connotes much more to me. Re–main asks us not just to choose to stay with Jesus, but to choose it over and over – like reenlist, renew, recommit.
Remain means to endure with the Beloved Vine through every season – winter’s cold and summer’s heat, and all that’s in between.
Remain means “Love Me, stay beside me, even when others fall away.”
May we remain.
Poetry: The Vine – Malcolm Guite
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
How might it feel to be part of the vine?
Not just to see the vineyard from afar
Or even pluck the clusters, press the wine,
But to be grafted in, to feel the stir
Of inward sap that rises from our root,
Himself deep planted in the ground of Love,
To feel a leaf unfold a tender shoot,
As tendrils curled unfurl, as branches give
A little to the swelling of the grape,
In gradual perfection, round and full,
To bear within oneself the joy and hope
Of God’s good vintage, till it’s ripe and whole.
What might it mean to bide and to abide
In such rich love as makes the poor heart glad?
Music: I Am the Vine – John Michael Talbot