Wednesday, April 29, 2015
The Season of Easter - the fifty days following the Day of Resurrection - is “the high season” in the Church Year. Each Sunday brings a Gospel reading that reports one of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples following the Resurrection, or a passage in which Jesus describes himself in his heavenly form. The Fourth Sunday of Easter, for example, always features a reading from the Gospel according to John in which Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd; the Sunday following Jesus describes himself as the True Vine.
These are powerful images that challenge us to contemplate and consider what Jesus is saying to us. What does it mean that Jesus is the True Vine? What does THAT have to do with ME?
Let me consider one possible train of thought. Clearly, a vine is rooted. A true vine - a healthy, vigorous one - must have a good root system that is embedded in good soil. Jesus goes on to say that we are the branches of the True Vine. Obviously, we are supposed to flower, prosper, and bear good fruit. (Wandering off into how grapes ferment and what that has to do with us is for another time.)
We are an Easter people, rooted in the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. We are an historical Church, rooted in the long tradition of those who have passed along the Good News to us, those who themselves were rooted in the resurrection. We may express ourselves differently - after all there are a variety of grape vines each producing different but still rich and precious fruit - but we are all rooted in the soil that is Scripture and tradition. That rich soil has been created by an attentive and creative Gardener who has maintained it for generations going back even before Moses and Abraham and Noah. We are like the branches of a vine on which hang fruit that has the potential for nourishment and for creating joy and wonder in God’s works.
In other words, how well rooted are you in the soil of salvation history? What nourishes and enriches your faith? How fruitful are you as a follower of Christ?
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Artist: Stained Glass, Alfred Handel, d. 1946; Photo, Toby Hudson.
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
The Season of Easter—the fifty days following the Day of Resurrection—is “the high season” in the Church Year. Each Sunday brings a Gospel reading that reports one of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples following the Resurrection, or a passage in which Jesus describes himself in his divine form. The Fourth Sunday of Easter, for example, always features a reading from the Gospel according to John in which Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd.
The image of “Jesus as Shepherd” usually leads us to warm and fuzzy feelings based in memories of images from lovely stained-glass windows. However, being a shepherd is not nearly so idyllic and sublime as we might imagine.
In the time of Jesus shepherding was about as low on the social scale as you could get. Those shepherds in the fields watching over their flocks near Bethlehem were dirty, smelly, illiterate men who were often suspected of being thieves and bandits if not outright subversives. They were not part of “normal” society. They had to be tough and rugged, as their work involved not only protecting their sheep from predators but also getting down and dirty with them when they got into trouble or when they were birthing. The shepherds were as likely to be attacked by marauding animals and sheep-stealers as were their sheep.
And, guess what their primary source of food was.
Furthermore, sheep are stupid, skittish, foul-smelling herd animals.
So: which would you rather be, the shepherd or the sheep? And, why in the world would Jesus in any way compare himself to those shepherds of ill-repute? And what does this have to do with Easter, of all things?!? There may be a sermon in all this someplace . . . .