Reflection by Michael Ellard
John 15: 9-17
As the pandemic has swept over the world, we might have wondered how we are able to bear the fruit Jesus is talking about in our Gospel reading today, whilst we have remained either separated or isolated from family, friends, and those around us in recent months. No one has escaped this situation and at times, opinions have been divided on the ways to go forward, whether that be as a church, a nation, or globally. Yet many people have quickly stepped forward, adapting to these times with offers of help for shopping, daily contact by telephone or computer, or by coming out of retirement, and going back to front line key working in hospitals or schools
Managing the science of a contagious virus, against the desire for people to meet with one another has inevitably led to tensions at times, and compromises have been needed, with mistakes made, and lessons learned. But there has been a lot of consideration by people of all ages for the needs of others during this time, and some has been at the expense of their own well-being, yet the ‘fruit’ Jesus is speaking about has been created in abundance throughout many communities across the world
This reading, takes us to a time when Jesus is talking to his disciples before he leaves them to return to his Father’s house. They have lived and worked together, under both difficult and challenging circumstances, risking their own safety and well-being also. Jesus has taught them to understand the meaning of the Scriptures they were familiar with, in new ways, explaining that seeing the need of others is an important part of the message His Father had been trying to impart to his chosen people for generations, Now, about to leave, Jesus is placing his trust in them to continue the work he has started, and at the centre of that work will be the expression of ‘love’, love for one another.
As the ‘Good Shepherd’ he has worked tirelessly to bring his Father’s flock together, Jew and Gentile alike. For in that love, there is no difference between people whatever their origin. It isn’t an emotional love, but it is a love that transcends ‘differences’, concentrating on the things we have in common. It is a love of uniting, not of dividing, and its foundation joins to the action of forgiveness’. Yet without love and understanding for others, forgiveness will not last, for matters will slowly revert to the previous differences and divisions. The fruit Jesus asks people to bear will stem from the actions of this love.
Emergencies often highlight the strengths we all have, perhaps not even knowing we process them until we are severely tested, and that willingness to put others first has been given freely across all generations. It has appeared that the hands of God have touched the wounds of this world through the actions of so many people. Understandably though, we now want to return to ‘normal’, possibly leading again to tensions of how we achieve this safety, as the pressures of consumerism clash with the science of virology. Yet much has changed, the ‘Old’ ways have been broken, and perhaps the ‘new normal’ needs to be different to the ‘old’, rather it was with the Old and New Testaments from God.
Now new opportunities lie ahead to tackle those longstanding situations that have existed for generations amongst us also, as they had at the time of Jesus. If we are to make a better future for families, ourselves, and the generations that follow, we to need to learn ways of overcoming the situations that have caused the divisions amongst us, and not wait for another global emergency to push us long this way of thinking. We need to re-learn the value of people as individuals, as Jesus showed to those around him, even to those begging beside the town gates. Collectively we appear to find this difficult, our human nature just keeps getting in the way! But looking again at John’s words today, and we see that the invitation to respond is personal, not collective. ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I have appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.’
We don’t always appreciate the impact each person has on another by the way we live our daily lives. The words we use when speaking to another person, the composure of our faces, happy or sad, what we buy, what we use, and how we dispose of what we don’t need, all impact on the lives of others somewhere in our world. The love Jesus revealed through his life is at the root of how we treat one another. Do we pause to see the need in others when we are busy? the time taken to help others where we can, and words of kindness and understanding used, all contribute to healing of people’s lives.
Not all who have given themselves so freely to others during these past months though, will have realised that the hand of Christ has rested in their lives at this time, in all they have done and continue to do. Yet in that unseen calling, they have responded in ways that have changed other’s lives. Jesus took twelve ordinary working people, transforming eleven of them into individuals who helped Christ to change the world profoundly. He continues to change lives today, for our world needs a further transformation, if we are to hand onto our children, and their children, the world God wants for all people.
Today we are reminded that we did not choose Jesus, but he chooses all who will do his work. His choice crosses the boundaries we often make in ourselves,
and in the societies we form, and the flock he gathers together in his Father’s name, he appoints to bear fruit, fruit that will last.