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 Vine and Branches




This is a message for the time of John's Gospel.
It a far cry from the inclusive relationship-building stuff of the earlier Gospels,
and even further from the sacramental ethos of Paul's early, and more authentic, letters.
It is the Gospel of persecution, separation, exclusiveness.

The church struggles to decide whether to be inclusive or exclusive; to build firm or porous borders;
To build up the congregation of the faithful or welcome the profligate and stranger.
Do we build the walls of Jerusalem and encourage others to join us there
or break down the walls to let the others in?

Perhaps the answer is that isolationism, blockaded safely behind the walls of the divine city,
may be the best policy for a while, but ultimately leads to starvation.
A situation which is becoming apparent in the church today.

The walls built up by exclusive creeds and hierarchical holiness
have left a church as starved of spirituality as of people
focussed on orthodox theology and ritual liturgy
instead of on sacramental service to others.

Too many have turned themselves into holy citadels.
They are affirmed, by each other, of their righteousness,
but condemned, by those outside their walls, as introspective
as condemnatory rather than loving of their neighbour;
treating others as cannon fodder for their advancement.
Jesus spoke cuttingly about such Pharisaical attitudes
and died to make his point.

The problem with such "anointed ones" is that can not see the error of their ways from within their holy bubble.
They are right. Others are wrong. End of story. There is no vehicle for discussion.
no opening in the chrysalis of their rectitude

A modern parable equates the Christian journey to the life-cycle of a butterfly.
In that cycle, the Chrysalis is identified as the age of safety and certainty,
from which the warmth of the sun(or Son) initiates a struggle for freedom
brings the butterfly to crawl and struggle and dry out in the sun,
eventually to spread its wings of glory and take flight.
Yet within the Chrysalis lies safety and security.
Outside lies pain and danger.

It is very human to accept the safer path, to struggle for security
particularly as the problems of life surround us or old age creeps into our bones.
It is human to rationalise and turn a blind eye to the inconsistencies of life in the chrysalis.
The way of Christ challenges the mores of the righteous, brought him to the Cross;
the practical risk of flying freely in a world of predators and other dangers.
We also are meant to take flight, to abandon the safety of conformity.
There is no safety in numbers when we are all heading for a precipice.
There is no security in holding to established ideas,
when they were dubious in the first place.