Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples." John 15:1-8
This week our fruit tree dropped its single orange. It has been working months on that orange. We clapped and cheered for it. And then we opened up the orange to eat it and it had no taste. 0. Nothing. Nada. We threw it out and went back out to the tree, only to discover, buried beneath its lush leaves and white flowers, a new small fruit growing down from the middle branch. ANOTHER ONE! “This one’s going to be good. I can already taste it,” we said to one another, totally forgetting that we already waited months for a tasteless fruit.
Don’t mind our excitement for growing fruit year round. We’re new to this whole Southern California lifestyle. Even though we’ve grown hundreds of tomatoes, we’re still way too excited about trees bearing citrus fruit. It feels so exotic. My neighbors have a tree with hundreds of limes and lemons that drop on our side of the fence so selflessly. But when I think about their fruit tree and our tiny little one, I’m more proud of our little one. And when I think about those trees, I like to remind myself that it’s okay if I’m the little tree in the kingdom of God. If God uses all my energy to plop a single piece of fruit down on the ground, I’m okay with that. Just as long as I’m bearing fruit.
This Sunday’s Gospel reading is tough. Bear fruit or you’re cut. Score the goal or you’re on the bench. Catch some fish or you’re left on the shore.
Sometimes I feel uninspired. It usually happens around Advent and Lent, preparing for Christmas and Easter, when I’ve just overdone it. I feel like I’m going through life without bearing fruit. I’m getting the work done, yeah, but is fruit growing on the tree? The way we do our work and interact with others matters. And sometimes we just know we’re not bearing the fruit that we could be.
In these moments I have to stop and ask myself…
Am I getting the nutrients that I need? Am I soaking in the sun? Have I been fed enough water?
Or… do I need to plant myself in a bigger pot?
It’s pretty easy for us to look at our whole life and find a point in time that we were bearing fruit. Maybe it was while we were raising kids or when we were helping a friend through a tragedy or that time we helped volunteer at a homeless shelter. We were probably planted in a bigger pot. But maybe our pot has shrunk. Or maybe we’ve disconnected ourselves from the vine. I think it’s important that we ask ourselves what fruit we’re bearing RIGHT NOW. Sometimes we won’t know until later what fruit we’ve grown, but often we know when we’re not living in an inspired way. We know when we’re going through the motions, afraid to expend our energy in the form of growing fruit. If you feel like this, it’s important to go back to those questions I ask myself when I find myself in a place not bearing fruit.
Are you getting the nutrients that you need? Are you soaking in the sun? Are you being fed? … In other words, are you allowing God the space and time to feed you? Are you sitting yourself under the Sun? Are you drinking from his life-giving water?
Or… have you been taking in all the nutrients for your own benefit and then refusing to bear fruit? Do you need to be transported into a bigger pot? Do you need to stretch your own limits and push yourself to be replanted? There are always new mission fields. There are always organizations begging for volunteers. The Church is always asking for help. People around you need you. Can you humbly say, “I’ve been fed enough. I’m ready to go bear fruit.”
It’s time to discern what is keeping us from bearing fruit. This week, do we need to sit and take in more nutrients? Or do we need to be replanted into a bigger pot?