Have you ever lost your keys, or glasses or cellphone and then try tracing your steps in reverse order to find the lost item? Only to find it in some obscure place? A place that simply out of order in comparison to where you normally place your keys, or glasses or cell phone … you fill in the blank.
For those moments, we placed ordinary things someplace other than in their usual spot.
Are we ever guilty of laying the Word of God in places where it’s hard to retrieve too? For example, in John 15:4A – Where Jesus says to his disciples, “Take care to live in me and let me live in you.” Well, the good news is that the love of Jesus is not something that we can misplace; God seems to know us better than we know ourselves. We just can’t quite get our hands on God’s love … so if it appears to be misplaced, we need to backtrack to that ever-present indwelling spirit that God sent to comfort and keep us and make all things available to us.
Our thought to ponder takes a little deeper and have us recognize that knowing where the love of God resides is wonderful … then, on the other hand, allowing our neighbor to witness that love is completely another matter! “Jesus, I want my neighbor to see your love in me.”
John 15:1- 17 is the chapter and verses that have been speaking to our AC most of the ministry year. Jesus uses the vineyard to explain connectedness and love. We see a vineyard as the place set aside for growing produce primarily for winemaking, but also for raisins, table grapes, and non-alcoholic grape juice. Have you ever taken a tour of the dwelling place of growing grapes?
A few months ago, a couple friends and I were part of a group touring Spain. As some will recall, Spain is Teresa of Avilla’s home country. Among her many noted titles, she was a well-known Spanish mystic and theologian of introspective life through mental prayer. Perhaps her spiritual discipline gives us a response to what it looks like to recognize the indwelling works of the Holy Spirit that make one more like Jesus.
During our trip, one of our land excursions took us near but not deeply into vineyards in southern Spain. It was a time of reflection to consider WHAT an inspirational walk through this vineyard in Spain might have revealed. I was close enough to see similarities to vineyards I had seen and walked through in southern California, yet we weren’t close enough to experience any of the nuances like the freshness of being in a garden or the close-up gaze at a vine that is putting out new tender green shoots……. Enclosed in a tour bus, you miss those sensory stimuli that you are afforded when you are physically among God’s creation. Being among the life-giving features of God’s handiwork elicits a connectedness to our own core through the sunlight, and the feel of the breeze blowing around us puts our surroundings out of our immediate control.
Does the same Jesus that wants to live in us control the vines and branches in this natural setting? This setting that calls you and me to reflect on his presence?
Wow!!! This awesome connectedness is a place of surrender, a place of solace. It IS a place where Jesus dwells. A place where saints like Teresa of Avilla once encountered this same, Jesus. You can clearly recognize Jesus and experience his spirit of welcome when we pause to acknowledge his places of abiding love.
Now, for all the scientific minds that are asking “IS THIS TRANSFERRABLE TO OTHER SETTINGS?
YES, IT IS, WHEN YOU DESIRE IT TO BE SO!!!
Making wine is a long, slow process, so I’m told. It can take a full three years to get from the initial planting of a brand-new grapevine through to the first harvest, and the first vintage might not be bottled for another two years after that. The vinedresser determines when its time. The fruit of the vine is required to stay in place until the keeper of the vineyard deems it ready for the next level of service. The challenge, much like the service of ministry or laying your keys in the wrong place, is the wait and proper timing for you to be at your finest.
At times this wait might seem to be a time of dormancy. A time when the cares of the day, crowd around you like weeds capable of choking the life out of your branch of ministry.
Keep reaching toward the sunlight and seek the face of the vinedresser for help, FOR survival and thriving.
- Teresa of Avilla might say to you at those times… “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”
― Teresa of Ávila
Our challenge remains, from generation to generation of faith leaders – the art of carving out time in the vineyards of life to see and experience our connectedness not only to the neighboring grape in your cluster but to the dresser and keeper of the vineyard too, which is Jesus our great sustainer through the work of the Holy Spirit. We seek to be our best selves as the vinedresser snips away our unseemly parts or gently and repeatedly remove the scales from our eyes of understanding so that we may see Jesus in the ordinary table grape as well as in the lusciousness of the wine grape and all the diversity that lies in between. By God’s grace, we will even become disciplined about where we place our glasses and keys, too.
- “It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.” ― Teresa of Ávila – Let’s take time to display the love of Christ because we’ve been changed from within!
- And remember, we appreciate the good when we have taken a few steps in the wrong direction and needed to backtrack to find our way back home … “To reach something good, it is useful to have gone astray.” ― Teresa of Ávila