John 15:1-8 Jesus said to his disciples, ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Reflection When I searched my memory for an example of what abiding might look like in more pedestrian language, I recalled a sequence of unfortunate events that occurred while I lived in Nambé, New Mexico, about eighteen miles north of Santa Fe. I was enjoying dinner with several of my neighbors in the home of the one who was a gourmet chef. The conversation turned to me when someone commented, “For someone who is so healthy, you sure are sick a lot.” The words stopped me in my tracks, I could not deny them. When I looked around the table I realized, “We all are constantly upping the ante of home remedies, work outs and doctor visits, unexplained allergies, itches and coughs.” The only other thing I recall about that meal is asking myself, “What do we all have in common?” The next morning I awoke with an answer, “Water. Everyone at that table shares a common well.”
So I got a quart jar, filled it with water and brought it to a local lab. When the technician asked me which tests on the list of hundreds I wanted I was utterly perplexed and returned the question, “If you noticed that everyone who is drinking water from your well has escalating allergies and recurring medical issues, what would you test for?” Without hesitation he replied, “Heavy metals.”
Five days later I picked up the results and discovered the level of uranium-238 in my drinking water was one hundred times the maximum contaminant level allowed by the FDA. With a bit of research I discovered it takes fifteen days for the body to dispel low levels of uranium, which of course does not happen when you ingest the contaminated water every day. To confirm this finding I had a friend bring a geiger counter to my home. The needle nearly jumped off the gadget when we held it near running hot water at the kitchen sink and in the shower. With a call to the University of New Mexico pathology lab I discovered twenty years earlier a study had been done of the drinking water in Nambé and neighboring communities. It was determined that several of the wells had high levels of naturally occurring uranium-238, including a school and a church and multiple private wells. Apparently that information was not made public.
My first thought was to warn my neighbors. I was stunned by their mixed response. So I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper which ignited the fury of neighbors who, though clandestinely installing reverse osmosis systems, refused to acknowledge the problem - after all what would it do to the value of their expensive real estate? Naive is the word to describe me. My daughter and I moved away.
Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Or you might say, when we choose to shut our selves down and deny our shared humanity, we suffer the effects of chronic, insidious poisoning.
We are intimately interconnected. We share a common life source and life force. It is up to us to keep our branches open to experience and transmit this vitality we call life. In Jesus’ words, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” This of course begs the question, “How do we know if the fruit we bear is good?” I believe the answer is simple. When the fruit is good it is not toxic, it is life giving and sustaining. Good fruit corresponds to the nature of the vine in which it abides.
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