Grapes and Raisins ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Are you a grape or are you a raisin?  And before you decide that I’m nuts, bear with me and lemme do some ‘splainin’ here.  Ever grown grapes?  Been to a vineyard?  Seen a grape vine?  Grapes grow in bunches on vines…the vines come out of the ground and provide the nutrition and things that are needed to produce the fruit. Grapes have to stay attached to the branches and vines for them to keep growing. Right?

Now, what would happen if one of these grapes fell off of the vine and sat in the sun for a while? It wouldn’t be fresh and juicy anymore, would it? In fact, it would sort of wither and shrivel up…kinda like raisins!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like raisins, and they’re great for cookies or cereal or a quick snack, but again, stick with me here.  Compared to big beautiful grapes though, raisins look pretty sad and icky, don’t they?

In today’s Gospel, (John 15:1-8) Jesus talks about vines and branches.  People in those days knew a lot about farming and planting, and a lot of folks had vineyards where they grew grapes. Jesus said that He was the vine, and that we are the branches.  What’s up with that?  Jesus was explaining how important it is for us to stay connected to Him. Just as the vine provides nutrition that helps fruit grow on a plant, Jesus gives us all that we need to grow in our faith. The branches on a grape vine have to stay connected to the vine so that they can produce delicious fruit. Otherwise, they’ll dry up and wither like sad little raisins. If we walk away and abandon faith, we’ll “shrivel up”, too!

We need to stay close to Christ so that He can produce “fruit” in us.   Spiritual fruit refers to things that help others and show that Jesus lives in and through us.

We are taught in Paul’s letter to the Galatians that  things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). How do we make sure we are connected to Jesus? We read God’s Word and study the Bible. We pray, talking to God and listening, too. We go to church so we can be connected with other “branches” that also abide in Him. Most importantly, we recognize that Jesus is doing the work and producing fruit through us. We don’t have to do a special set of tasks or have “enough faith.” We stay connected to the “vine” of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit develop its fruit. We trust in God and rely on Him for all things, staying close to Him and thanking Him for giving us life and hope.  In other words, we actually become disciples of Christ. 

“Now,” you say, “I’m a Christian already.”  Nuh huh.  Nope.  Not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about being a disciple, not a Christian.  My friend, Rainbow Joseph, explained it best when he wrote:

“You were called by Christ to be a disciple, not a Christian.  A disciple is an apprentice. A disciple learns from a teacher how to be like the teacher. A disciple learns by doing. A disciple practices the skill that is learned, over and over, improving a little more each day.  Jesus THE Christ has called you to be a christ to those around in your own personal Israel.  If you are not the Christ to those around you, then you do not serve THE Christ and you have learned nothing.  If you are not the Christ to those around you, then you are not a disciple, and if not a disciple, you are certainly not a Christian.”

Like I’ve said before, you are the only Jesus some people will ever see.  You are the only Bible some people will ever read.  SO… are you a grape, or are you a raisin?  Amen.