John 15: 1-3 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.”
In today’s passage Jesus presents an extended metaphor, the “Vine and the Branches” in which he is the vine, which produces fruit through the branches, the disciples, and the gardener is the Father. Just as the gardener prunes the branches, removing dead ones, and cutting back the fruitful ones, he gives room for the fruitful ones to be more fruitful; so our Father in heaven disciplines us that we may be more fruitful.
Part of the fruit of the Sword of the Spirit is unity in community lived out well, but for that fruit to ripen the branch needs to be pruned. I live in London, and am part of the Antioch community. We have members who are Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. At times, each of us makes mistakes and annoys other ones of us, and so we might hear: “That was too Protestant a way of dealing with that”; or “Those prayers were done in too Catholic a way”; or “The richness of my faith is not fully expressed here”. The reality is that for all of us being part of ecumenical community means working hard for the common ground, what we all believe, and not letting our differences, real and important though they may be, separate us. And when we annoy one another accidentally, we forgive one another, and move on.
Forgiveness is at the heart of community, and it is particularly at the heart of ecumenical community. If we are going to build unity, in a one denomination community, or an ecumenical community, we have to be vigilant not to let there be a chance for grievances, or little offences, that can turn to bitterness, grow in us. They are, in the words of one Christian author, like little foxes that run around nipping at us, and if we let them, they will eat up the unity God would have for us.
PRAYER: Father in heaven, Lord God, we thank you that you prune us, that you discipline us, that we might better fulfil your purposes. We pray Lord, that we would be forgiving and generous in the way we relate to one another, and forgive all offences we commit against one another, particularly where those destroy the unity you have called us to.
Today, we have 2 testimonies, one by Karen Jordan (Catholic) from India and Scotland and another one by Michi Schöberl (Catholic) from Germany.