Psalm 84 (VU 800), John 15:1-11
                       232,376, 703, 603
                   May 10, 2009 by Tad Mitsui
A tragedy hit my friend’s family some years ago.  Their
young adopted son committed suicide.  He was born of an
alcoholic mother and suffered from fetal alcoholic
syndrome.  One of the symptoms affected him was that he
could not receive nor understand other people’s
affection.  Consequently he was incapable of trusting
people.  Like a branch that was cut off from a tree, he
cut himself off from life despite his devoted parents
who loved him dearly.

The parable of the vine and the branches is a metaphor
of our relationship with others.  But it also speaks
about cruelty of pruning and the fate of the branches
which have been cut off.  We must know that the point of
this parable is the importance of being connected to
life, and not about being cut off and burnt in fire.  It
is about “Stay in my love.” 

A certain business man fires people by quoting this
parable of Jesus.  “He removes every branch that bears
no fruit.  Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away
like a branch and withers: such branches are gathered,
and burned.”  This man is an example of those who
ignores  Jesus’ main message and uses the word of God
for one’s selfish advantage.  There are two glaring
mistakes in his logic.  He is not Jesus, for one thing.
So he is not a life-giving vine.  Secondly what Jesus
meant by the word “fruit” is not his profit.  Jesus was
speaking about the vine as the source of life, and love
as the sap of life.  The vine according to Jesus is
certainly not a money tree.

Some religions also abuse this parable.  In order to
keep loyalty of members, leaders of some churches use
this parable to black-mail their members so that they
would stay on or agree with their teaching.  Anyone who
criticizes the church or its teaching is threatened to
be kicked out and to be damned.  This is why it is very
important for us to know the point of this parable.  We
must resist temptations to use the story to suit our

What then is the point of this parable?  A simple rule
of thumb to read any parable is to take the first
sentence as  the main point.  So in this case, the point
is:  “I am (Jesus Christ is) the true vine and God is
the vine grower.”  In other words, God gives and
sustains life through Jesus Christ.  The emphasis should
be the vine that gives sap of life.  Life of the branch
can not be sustained without being connected to this
vine.  And this is not meant to be a threat.  In to
emphasize the positive aspect of this connectedness, I
would like to use the metaphor of the fetus in mother’s

The first nine months of our existence is a life of
total dependency in the mother’s womb.   We are
connected to the mother through the umbilical cord and
receive all we need from her.  The mother’s womb is the
source of life, like the vine is for the branch.  It is
also the very first most comfortable and life giving
experience of our lives.  This is why we curl up in a
fetal position, when we feel miserable.  Instinctively
we try to return to the most comfortable and protected
time we remember, in mother’s womb.  Most of the time,
we receive from mother what we need sufficiently.  This
is how we develop our equipments for survival and
learned to reject what endangers our life.   This is
also why on a very rare occasions when a fetus receives
substance that is harmful, it is shocked into developing
abnormal resistance to anything external.  Fetal
alcoholic syndrome is an example.  It is dangerous
because the fetus learns not to trust and accept.  In
our mother’s womb, we learn to receive life and accept
love.  And that is the normal development.  When we grow
normally in the womb, we develop all the organs and
capacities for us to survive after we leave our mother’s
body.  When we are born, we will have fully grown lungs
and digestive systems to breathe and to take in

The experience in our mothers’ womb is mostly about our
physical development.  However, when Jesus spoke about
the vine and the branches, he was telling us about
spiritual life that was sustained by being connected to
him.  And spiritual life is as essential for us as air
is for our physical body.  Without air our bodies die.
Likewise without spiritual life we die as human beings.
Just like for the young man, of whom I spoke about in
the beginning, who could not trust anyone, thus life
became impossible, we will not be able to live without
the fruits of the spirit.  Paul says that the fruits of
the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
faithfulness, gentleness, generosity, and self-control.
It does not take too much imagination to see how those
fruits of the spirit are essential for our existence as
human being. 

Imagine a life without love or joy?  It will be so
miserable that it is not worth living.  Imagine a
society where people refuse to be gentle to each other
and live only by impulse without any self-control?  It
is a description of hell.  It is scary to see today that
many people decided that spiritual life is not important
in their lives.  When we are cut off from the source of
the spirit, we die as humans.  People do not realize
that by ignoring the spiritual life they are creating a
society that does not function.  And without functional
society, our civilization dies.  For us Christians,
Jesus Christ is the source of spiritual life. 

So, we have a mission.  We must teach our young people
and tell others that spirituality is a basic ingredient
of our life and that we must be connected to the spirit.
It is a fact of life, not a threat.  How then can we
remind of this reality without sounding like a
blackmail.  Let me go back to the very beginning of our
life.  The first thing we must do as soon as we are born
is to let the air through the wind pipe and into the
lungs.  Not a second should be wasted, because lack of
air will caused irreparable damage of the brain.  This
is why it is absolutely necessary for the baby to cry as
soon as it is born.  Everybody around the newborn must
encourage it to cry and make the first sound of life.
We slap the bottom and do other such things.  It is a
loving act to remind the child how to start using one
most important survival equipment.  It is a plea; it is
a prayer, urging the baby to, “Live, my love, live.
Breathe, cry and live!”  It is not a threat nor
blackmail.  Threats and blackmails are the messages of
death.  But the message of the vine and the branch is
the message of life and love.

Jesus Christ is the vine and we are the branches
connected to him.  Through this metaphor, God is telling
us to live in his love by being connected to life.

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