5.14.2008

Chosen to bear fruit

John 15:9-17

Throughout the gospels, it is clear that Jesus knows people. Not just human nature, but the intimate details and motivations of their lives. He knows Peter's eagerness and his rock-headedness. He knows what his critics are upset about even before they begin to grumble. He knows the core values that the rich young man simply cannot let go of. He knows the bad decisions and bad marital fortunes of the woman he meets at the well.

Jesus engaged people knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly of their personalities and situations.

So it's both astounding and comforting to hear him, in the midst of his great prayer for his band of followers before he goes to fulfill his mission on the cross, say to them: "I chose you. And I love you."

It's easy to read some of our current culture back into this and see Jesus as making the disciples "members" of his "church," as bringing them "in" his circle. But Jesus did so much more: He invited the disciples to share life with him. He invested in them, taught them. Prayed for them. Empowered them. All knowing exactly how weak and human they were.

As I listen to Jesus say this to me -- "I choose you!" -- I hear so much more than being picked for the right team. I'm being asked to play my heart out.
You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. (v. 16)
Fruit is the evidence the world sees that the plant is alive and healthy. It isn't like the tree just hangs around being a tree, and then carves out a bit of time to grow fruit from its branches, then goes back to just being a tree. Fruit comes from what the plant is, from seedling to sapling to mature tree. By telling us to bear fruit, Jesus is saying something truly beautiful to us:
"I have planted seeds in you already. Living connected to me and my Father isn't something you can do -- it's who you are! It's in your DNA. Stay focused on me. If you imitate me -- if you love as I have loved -- the fruit will come."
I can turn following Jesus into a big project, but this text says to me that it's a much more organic process. I don't have to go off and save the world. I just have to work with the seeds and soil I have been given. Jesus the gardener provides the nourishment and the environment. Just as seeds "know" how to put out roots and push up shoots, God the creator has programmed that into the seeds he has planted. My task is to reflect them and love -- in whatever garden I am in at the moment.
What seeds has Jesus planted in me? How is he calling me to grow? What fruit is he nurturing in me right now?

5.10.2008

The opposite of distraction

Thanks to Len for blogging this great quote from Henri Nouwen.

“In a society in which entertainment and distraction are such important preoccupations, ministers are also tempted to join the ranks of those who consider it their primary task to keep other people busy. It is easy to perceive the young and the elderly as people who need to be kept off the streets or on the streets. And ministers frequently find themselves in fierce competition with people and institutions who offer something more exciting to do than they do.

“But our task is the opposite of distraction. Our task is to help people concentrate on the real but often hidden event of God”s active presence in their lives. Hence, the question that must guide all organizing activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy; but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence.

“Calling people together, therefore, means calling them away from the fragmenting and distracting wordiness of the dark world to that silence in which they can discover themselves, each other, and God. Thus organizing can be seen as the creation of a space where communion becomes possible and community can develop.” Nouwen, The Way of the Heart