Several months ago, my friend Beth McMahon led our Thursday prayer group. She invited us to meditate on John 15:5. During that experience, I had a vision of a grape vine growing on the walls of our new ministry space, then growing out the door and into the neighborhood. It was a very powerful experience for me and the image of a grapevine has become a central metaphor for our work.
I realized through that vision that ultimately everything we do is leading to the end goal of producing fruit-bearing clusters; gatherings of people who have joined together to produce more fruit in our personal life, our communal life, and in the life of our respective neighborhoods. The fruit we are called to produce according to Galatians 5:22-23 “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control .”
As I reflect on 2014, it was clearly a year of preparation that included uprooting, pruning, tilling, and transplanting. There were weeds that needed to be uprooted, non-fruit producing branches that needed to be cut off, hardened barren soil that needed to be broken up, and ultimately what was left had to be transplanted into the newly cultivated soil. These were the conditions of my own soul as well as the conditions within our ministry. It was a year of back breaking, hard, and often painful work as my family and my ministry were both picked up, pruned, and replanted.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered. “You are worried and upset about many things. But few things are needed. Really, only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-41
As an older type A sister, I identify very closely with Martha and have always been convicted by these words from Jesus. In 2010 I shared an interpretation of this passage in which the emphasis was put on the fact that Mary choose “one thing” and Martha was busy and worried about “many things.” That sermon was challenging but also liberating for me. I began praying for the wisdom to choose one thing and to let go of all the distractions that kept me from that kind of clarity.
As we enter 2015, I feel like a bush that has been cut back to only a trunk surrounded by new soil that has been so tilled and overturned that I don’t even recognize my surroundings. As I think about the branches that have been removed from my life, I can see how the pruning has led to greater focus and clarity. The pruning process has gotten me back to the “one thing” – staying connected to the vine.
So my one resolution for 2015 is to grow stronger roots in the place where I have been planted by tapping into the vine and trusting that the fruit will come in due season.