THE VINE AND THE TIME by Bruce Leane
I began my new job, meeting the boss at the shed at 8 am.
‘Good morning, Bruce,’ he greeted me cheerfully.
‘Good morning, Boss,’ I was tentative. It was my first job, and I didn’t know a thing about block work in the orchard. I had been in the dairy milking cows all my life.
‘Come with me, and I’ll give you a tour of the block,’ the boss invited, he headed away from the shed towards a patch of vines. ‘The sultana patch we are standing in you’ll be pruning starting today. Learning to prune is easy, I’ll show you how so don’t worry.’
Over the next 11 years, I would prune hectares of sultana vines, pick hectares of sultana bunches, spread tonnes of grapes on racks for drying. I would shake tonnes of dried grapes off drying racks bundling the fruit into sweat boxes ready to be taken to the Co-operative company and sold. I would have eaten my way through racks of golden dried sultanas without making myself ill. Today I crave for those golden bags of juice in my retirement.
But at that moment, I worried what if I cant learn. The vines were trellised to head height and canes sprouted untidily in every direction.
The boss handed me a pair of secateurs, ‘Sultana vines are regarded as ‘sports’ in the horticultural jargon,’ the boss snipped off a long cane and pulled it away from the vine.
‘What’s a ‘sport,’ Boss? and why did you cut off that cane?’ I was bewildered.
‘Sultana berries have no seeds and can only be grown by planting a cutting or layering a cane. They have been called ‘sports.’ I cut the cane off because it was growing in the wrong place. I have put the cane aside because I want to plant some cutting’s to extend this patch of vines.’
‘Branches must be trimmed and thinned out, so they can carry the maximum bunches of fruit,’ the boss snipped off branches and shortened others. ‘The canes must be connected strongly to the crown of the parent vine, so they don’t break off under the weight of fruit,’ the boss stood back and looked at his handy work. ‘Shaping the vine to make it a strong fruit carrier is the secret of all successful fruit husbandry,’ he added. I could feel a sermon coming on.
I preached the following Sunday, ‘I am the vine, and you are the branches.’ Christ explains about forming the branches to bear much fruit and making sure the cane is securely connected to the vine as the boss had explained to me. In the congregation was a man to whom the message spoke. Forty years later that same man, now a pastor, took me aside to tell me he had never forgotten that sermon on the vine and the branches.
‘A lot has happened to my belief system in those forty years,’ I told him.
‘In what way,’ he was curious.
‘In reading John 15: 1- 17, Christ emphasizes the word ‘remain.’ The word ‘remain’ implies intense effort and is used eight times. Over the past forty years, I have pressured myself to ‘remain’ in Christ, thinking I must work even harder to remain for fear of being pruned from the vine. During those forty years the Holy Spirit had switched on the light of revelation: Christ was living and preaching under the old covenant, Jesus lived, preached and died under the law of Moses. I believe that Christ’s earthly ministry was under the old covenant, he hadn’t yet died for our sins or risen, sin was still active.’
‘You mean you don’t believe in the Old Testament?’ the pastor was horrified. His idol of forty years had fallen.
‘It has taken all of those forty years for the Lord to deal with the ‘remain’; I constantly put myself under pressure to remain close to Christ until the Holy Spirit revealed that the ‘remain’ applied to the old testament order and when Christ died and rose he ushered in the new era, things then changed. My struggle to ‘remain’ ended by Christ going to the cross. When I accepted Christ as my saviour my struggles ended. Christ entered my heart and I am now in Christ and he in me, we are as inseparable as the branch and the vine. This light bulb experience set me free from the pressure of trying to ‘remain’ in Christ. I am in Christ, I remain in Christ and nothing can ‘separate me from the love of Christ.’ Romans 8: 35.’
‘I see what you mean, I shall have to give it more thought,’ the pastor hedged.
‘During my early years, I explained, ‘I tried hard to remain close to Christ and kept failing, now I learned, I was in Christ and he in me. ‘I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life for me,’ Galatians 2: 20 – 21.’
‘You sound so sure about what Christ has done, but it doesn’t seem right that we just do nothing. Isn’t that presuming on God?,’ the pastor was aghast at the thought that his best efforts were not acceptable to God.
YOU HAVE IT ALREADY
‘who shall separate us from the love of Christ…?’ Romans 8: 35. ‘Remain’ speaks of great effort but
Many readers may still be trying to ‘remain’ in Christ, so can I point out, when the reader accepts that they are in Christ at their salvation, and that Christ is in them and they in him and that he has given them all they need, the striving to remain in Christ is taken away. Can the reader accept that they are in Christ and he in them?
‘I wish I could just accept scripture in faith the way you do,’ the pastor sighed.
‘To him who can keep you…’ Jude 24, Christ is keeping you and me. Working at ‘remaining’ has gone, I live in the era of the finished work of Christ. Christ wonderfully fulfilled the Old Testament position, but it took the Pauline revelation to lift us out of the struggle to ‘remain.’ My friend, you will always struggle to ‘remain’ in Christ until you accept that you can’t do anything to ‘remain’. Until you accept that Jesus indwells you and keeps you. You ‘remain’ in Christ because he keeps you.
‘All I have to do is accept what the Bible says?’ the pastor questioned doubtfully
‘Yes, accept the word of God that all sin is dealt with; remember, Christ finished sin on the cross. Our job is to go for fruit that’s why we are attached firmly to the vine. We are no longer hanging on; our position in Jesus is secure. ‘’When I come back to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.’ John 14: 20 LB. A huge part of my life changed when I understood and believed that everything I do is part of Christ, ‘he in me and I in him.’’
‘I accept that Christ is in me and I in him, what must I do next?’ the pastor showed he was tired of trying to ‘remain.’
‘Listen, just concentrate on being rather than doing. You have been made a joint heir with Christ. You and Christ are in an eternal relationship. ‘Since you arose with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is with Christ in God.’ ’ Colossians 3: 1. Paul’s revelation never leaves us trying to remain but always just being a new creation.’
A great light lit up the pastor’s face, the light bulb of revelation flooded his heart and mind.
Too many people are trying to ‘remain’ not understanding they have arrived.