I wonder whether you feel energized and hopeful about the Church and its mission? Be honest with yourself!
As a Priest in these villages and in our communities I want your answer to be yes!! After all it’s spring time. The world is full of hope and energy at the moment. So we must follow the lead of all creation and be hopeful and energized people.
This morning our 2 Bible passages help us to start to engage with how we might answer yes to the question of hopefulness regarding the mission of the Church. It is the season both in our gardens and fields where we start to look forward .. looking forward in both in nature and in theology. To look forward is an interesting turn of phrase isn’t it. What are we looking forward to? The time of Lenten reflection is well over. The Easter celebrations continue but we just begin to see on the horizon the message of ascension and pentecost when we will embrace the call to do something about what we have experienced. I wonder then .. what is our mission which we undertake with energy and enthusiasm?
I am not suggesting we get pumped up in some false sense like some politician on their electoral battle bus, but as believers we need to find the meaning and purpose which Christ gives to us in a sometimes seemingly hopeless and desperate world.
The problem might be that this seems like a burden to you? Do you feel like you haven’t got it in you? I often do. We need to embrace the message behind our Gospel reading today which allows us to be free from this burden. It is a message the previous Archbishop Rowan Williams understood when he wrote about the mission of the Church:
“Mission is finding out what God is doing and joining in” Rowan Williams
This is the essence of what we are being asked to do in the metaphor of the Vine on which the Gospel of John relies. Let us use the Ignatian technique of imagining ourselves into the story.
We have the Vine-Grower. Who is this? It is God. The image tells us that the Vine was planted into the Vineyard with purpose and hope and expectation and commitment to care and whatever else you might want to imagine someone plants something .. you try and imagine over the next week what it might mean that God is a gardner!
We have the Vine. Who is this? It is Jesus. Christ was planted into our world to give it hope and purpose and meaning. He is to bear the fruit for the Vine-Grower.
We have the branches. Who are these? Christians who make up the Church. We become part of the Vine part of the thing in which the Vine-Grower invests his love and purpose and hopes in the Vineyard.
And the Vineyard is what? The world. Not just the world. The Universe. The great unravelling Cosmos which we are just beginning to explore. The mission of Jesus and the Church is cosmic in nature .. so we are going to need a lot of energy and hope. Who knows what else is planted out there in this Vineyard? But what we do know is that in this Vineyard the thing of hope is the Vine which has been planted.
The point in this image is that our place as the Church is as people grafted into the Vine. People who have joined in the very life of the Vine. In this way it is not for us to draw on our own source of energy. We are grafted into the Vine which is being tended by the Vine-Grower. As Rowan Williams puts it we are simply joining in.
The necessary energy and hope we need to produce fruit is found in the relationship between the Vine-Grower and the Vine to which we have been grafted on.