Tag Archives: friend

Bearing Fruit (Fifth of Easter, Year B)

Fifth of Easter (Easter IV)

John 15 verses 1-8

 

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When Jesus arrived in heaven, all of the angels were there to greet Him.  After the formalities, they asked Him whom He had left behind on Earth to finish the work that He had begun.  Jesus answered, “Just a small group of men and women who love Me”.

“That’s all”?  Asked the angels, who were completely astonished.  “Are you kidding us.  After all, these are human beings we are talking about here.  What if this tiny group should fail”?  Jesus replied, “I have no other plans”.

Well, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us that we are His plan to finish His work on Earth.  We are to be the ones to bear much fruit.

Here’s a small example of the fruit that one person can bear.  Many years ago, a university professor had his sociology class go into the slums of Baltimore to get case histories of 200 young boys.  The students were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future.  In every case, the students wrote, “He doesn’t have a chance”.

Twenty-five years later, another sociology professor came across the earlier study and had his students follow up on the project to see what actually had happened to these boys.  Twenty of the 200 boys had either died or moved away.  Of the remaining 180 boys, 176 of them had achieved more than ordinary success in the world.  They had become businessmen, lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.

The astounded professor decided to pursue this further and personally interviewed each of the men.  The one question he asked them was “How do you account for your success”?  To a man, they replied, “Well, you see, there was this teacher…”.

The teacher was still alive, so the professor sought her out.  Although she was quite elderly, she was still very alert.  When asked what was her magic formula for the boys’ success, she gently answered, “It’s really quite simple.  I loved those boys”.

And, isn’t that exactly what God is asking us to do too-to love other people?  And, the best thing about us “loving” other people is that Jesus is right there to help us.  After all, didn’t He say in today’s Gospel, “Whoever remains in Me and I in him, will bear much fruit”?

I think that Jesus specifically use the analogy of the vine to show us, not just how interconnected we are with God, but also how we are bound inextricably to one another.

 

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Jesus used the lowly vine because, even though grape vines are gnarled and twisted around each other, they are extremely strong-just like the Church which He set up for us.

In addition, the vine underscores the fact that there are as many pathways to growth in God as there are members in the Church.  In any congregation or gathering, no one person has taken the same exact route to faith as another.

But they are there because God wants them to make their home in Him as He makes His home in them

After all, “home” is where we belong.  Home is where love is.

But, our home – the Church-isn’t full yet.  How many people have not “come home”-have not come back to God, their true home, because no-one has reached out to them-to love them; to befriend them?

We have to be the ones who help them.  We have to be their friend-to help them “come home”.

The Church which Jesus has graciously given us cannot be kept to ourselves.  It has to be passed on to others.  And, who knows, perhaps if we did manage to help someone come back to God, he or she in years to come, when asked how they found their faith, may say, like these boys in Baltimore, “Well, you see, I had this friend…”

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What’s in a Name?

I was talking to someone recently about names.  His name was Bill but he signed himself ‘W’ for William, which, he said could lead to some confusion as to who he actually is.

I can sympathise.  I too have a first name that confuses many people.  I was christened ‘Alexander’ but am known as ‘Sandy’ which is a shortened form – or a diminutive, to give it it’s proper description.  ‘Sandy’ always reminds me of third-rate Scottish comedians or collie dugs.

My uncle was also Alexander, but was known as ‘Alec’ and I have a friend who is ‘Alex’ with an ‘x’

I once looked up a dictionary of names and to my horror discovered that another version is ‘Sanders’ – maybe, on hindsight, it is a bit more upmarket that ‘Sandy’ In Gaelic, Alexander becomes ‘Alastair’ or ‘Alasdair’

Once met a Russian lady at university, who told me that in her country, a version of Alexander is ‘Sacha’ – (Sacha Distel – French singer)

There’s a football player who rejoices in  the name of Zander Diamond, as does Alexander Armstong, the comedian, who is also called Zander.  Rather fancy that moniker!

And I’m sure there are many more variations on my particular name – as there are on so many others:

Robert can be Rob, Robbie, Bob or Bobby, Bert or Bertie.   Catherines are sometimes known as Kate, or Katy or even Renee.

Another friend of mine was James, as far as his family was concerned, but Jimmy to myself and his other friends, even after he changed it himself to Jim.  To wind him up we’d sometimes call him ‘Hamish’ which is the Gaelic form of his name

He was the same person, of course, but others saw him differently – James for his parents, brothers and sisters – the name his mother and father had given him, the name which was registered after his birth, the name given at his baptism – his official name.

But Jimmy to his pals who knew another facet of his personality – Jimmy, a familiar, easy-to-relate to kind of name – the name of a pal, a friend, a mate.

Then he himself started calling himself ‘Jim’ – more grown-up perhaps than Jimmy, more formal than Jimmy, but less so than James.  He saw himself as ‘Jim’ whatever the implications of that were.

Some people see us in different ways and call us by different names, as the case of friend Jimmy shows.

Perhaps something of this was reflected in the different names people had for Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah writing about the Messiah called him ‘wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’

The hymn writer, John Newton, once wrote:

‘Jesus my shepherd, brother, friend, my prophet, priest and king, my Lord, my life, my way, my end’

Jesus is different things, has different names, different aspects for different people – depending on their outlook, depending on their needs.

There is a bridge in an old European town where each archway has a carving of Jesus represented in a different way.

As the workmen cross the bridge early in the morning, they can pause for a moment at the figure of Jesus the carpenter.

The farm workers on the other hand can see him depicted as a shepherd.

The elderly and sick can view him as the great healer.

Those who are feeling tired or discouraged are reminded of Jesus the friend.

So all who cross that bridge can find the picture of Christ which suits their particular need.

And he fills all our needs.

He said of himself ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ and in him we find our direction, and our integrity, and our very being.

He said of himself ‘I am the Door’ and he opens up for us the way to a new kind of life.

He described himself as ‘The Good Shepherd’ and we know that he will protect us, direct us and guide us lovingly through life to the security of the fold.

And he said ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’ – in this life and the next, we have nothing to fear.  He is our Redeemer, our Saviour, and our Friend.

And let us remember this – the Bible tells us that ‘God has engraved our name on the palm of his hand’…in other words, we are as near to God as our hands are to us.  God knows us through and through, every last detail about us (why, even the hairs of our head are all numbered).

God knows us; Christ loves us – whoever we are, wherever we come from, whatever our name! 

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