Once there was a story about a man who ordered a tree house over the internet. When the box arrived, it had printed on the top the words that have become every parent's nightmare: "Some assembly required."
The man began to assemble the tree house and as he laid out all the parts on the floor, he realized to his dismay that the instructions were for a tree house and the parts he got were for a sail boat. The next day, he sent an angry e-mail message to the company complaining about the mix-up. Back came the reply: "We are truly sorry for the mix-up and the inconvenience. However, it might make you feel better to consider the fascinating possibility that somewhere today there is a man out on a lake trying to sail your tree house."
The point is clear. When we have to put something together, we need to have the right parts and the right instructions. Jesus had the right instructions when he said, “Remain in me as I remain in you.” He had the right parts when he said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Jesus is the vine. For as long as we remain attached to him, what we do and who we become will produce a rich harvest. Otherwise, the branch is snapped clean and taken out. Any life that wants to survive has to stay close to its source. Anyone that seeks to exist has to hang around and linger near its foundation. Anybody that needs to live has to abide with Him, who has eternal life.
Because we are all rooted in Jesus and because we are all branches of the same tree, nobody is supposed to stand alone, to feel alone or be alone. We are interrelated. Invisible threads of faith are the strongest ties that bind us. God unites relationships among his people. He never breaks them.
The instructions therefore are clear. If he is the vine and we are the branches, grape expectation number one is to remain in Jesus.
Some people get easily discouraged when the Vinegrower starts pruning them. Relationship with God always reflects the Cross. A religion that makes it easy to exist is not religion at all. A religion that makes our feelings light and does not challenge us with the way we live is not religion at all. A religion that waters down its doctrine and morality is not a religion at all. For the vine to grow, it has to be pruned. And sometimes those prunings are hard to accept.
There is also the temptation to be disappointed with our humanity, to be disgusted with things that turned out beyond our expectations, to be frustrated with our sinful nature. However, the bigger disappointment, disgust and frustration happen when we quit and refuse to open ourselves to the grace of God. That was the sin of Judas, who probably forgot that our God is the God of second chances. Abide with Christ, that is grape expectation number one.
Grape expectation number two is to let his words remain in us. If we do that, he will grant whatever we ask. Be faithful to his words. Believe in his promise. This was his promise, "ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you." What have we asked from our loving God? Let me guess, because these are also some of the things I also ask from him—health and well-being, happiness and safety for my loved ones, and sometimes winning the lottery.
Now, suppose the richest person on earth were to grant you whatever you ask, what will you say? Give me some of your money. Or tell me about some secrets on how you made money. Or how about this--can you just adopt me and make me a member of your family?
Because if we are part of his family, then his money becomes our money, his secrets to making money become our own. Isn’t that the reason we are all here? So that we can live in heaven as members of one family?
If you see a man sailing on a tree house, you know why. But, if you want to live in heaven, abide with Jesus. He has the right instructions. He has the right parts.
6 May 2012