I am the true vine, and my Abba is the vine grower who cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, but prunes the fruitful ones to increase their yield. You’ve been pruned already, thanks to the word that I have spoken to you. Live on me, as I do in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, neither can you bear fruit apart from me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who live in me and I in them will bear abundant fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. Those who don’t live in me are like withered, rejected branches, to be picked up and thrown on the fire and burned. If you live on in me, and my words live on in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Abba will be glorified if you bear much fruit and thus prove to be my disciples.
As I prepared for today’s sermon I wrestled with the world around me. I bear witness to the hurt of a hurting world. I wrestled with these verses from John. What is the true vine? And how did I get graphed to it? What is this verse speaking to me, to this community…I found myself wandering. I wandered all over the place, between here and there. I worried that I would not have something to preach to you this morning.
I read and re-read these 8 verses from the Gospel of John. Then something beautiful happened. I had what folks in recovery call a “moment of clarity.” These verses have little to do with how to behave, act, or live. There is nothing here that allows for me to build a checklist of obedience. There is no place for me to cause mischief. I can romp and stomp around in the beauty of our Creators beloved vineyard. This is a story of how God is and of what we are in relationship with God.
There is hope. Like my white Russian fueled, rug concerned friend from “The Big Lebowski” to too shall abide.
What a relief! All I got to do is live on in Christ. My discipleship is evidence of the fruit that God shall bear. It is not a matter of my ability, action, or worth at all. I don’t know about you but I find some comfort in this. There is hope that I may be of service to the Kindom of God, after all.
I do not need to figure out what the word is that has been spoken. All I have to do is live in a way that bears fruit, and then I can live on in relative comfort, absent of anything truly extraordinary.
There is one problem here…there is nothing here about living on in relative comfort absent of anything truly extraordinary. At least I do not remember anything in the fine print to suggest that I was getting anything out of the deal other than “another way” as I picked up my cross and followed The Christ. But then again it is no ordinary way that we are being offered. The extraordinary path before us leads us to a place, a place “Where the Wild Things Are.”
One night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of as kinds. He romped and he stomped as he went here and there. Searching and searching not really aware. Max was searching for a place to be. A place he felt safe, a place to belong.
All that Max’s mother saw was that Max was being mischievous and called him “WILD THING!” and Max said “I’ll Eat you UP!” so he was sent to bed without eating anything.
Max was angry, frustrated now…he was sheltered from searching for that place to belong. Max began to cry mourning the loss. He sat there angry and sleepy…he was fighting sleepy as he fell of in to sleep.
That very night Max awoke in his room, there a forest grew…and grew and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and walls became the world all around and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max and he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.
All the while Max dreamed of rumbling and romping as he searched here and there for a place to belong. Hoping and wanting to be in a place where he was with and near other “Wild Things” and in the horizon something appeared. It looked like a special place with trees so very tall. Cliffs so high you could not see the tops at all. Max grew excited as rumbles and romping began to stir…this “Wild Thing” was awakened by the sight of that “Wild Place.”
And when Max’s boat came safely to the shore where the wild things are, they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws till Max said, “BE STILL!” and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all. And the wild things made Max king of all wild things.
What does the king of all the wild things do? That anger in his belly and the searching for a place looked like it had concluded, according to the face of the wild things. For as king Max felt safe, around all these other wild things. Hearing their terrible roars and seeing their terrible teeth and eyes brought on a wondrous surprise. Max felt at home in this place.
“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”
All of the wild things took off like a light. They were here and there, they were everywhere. Max took delight in this terrible, awful sight…everywhere he looked was a wild thing doing wild things, in the most wild of ways.
Wild things climbed the tall, tall cliffs and scratched the tall, tall trees. The wild things did so very much that Max became exhausted and had enough.
Max proclaimed that I am your king, king of the wild things and I say, “Stop, now!” Then Max sent the wild things off to bed without their supper. Max was not sure why he still felt angry or sad. He thought he was home with all the wild things. He hoped he had found that place where he too belonged. Max began to weep. Max the king of all the wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.
At that very moment between the sobs and the tears, Max was blessed with a scent of a place so dear it dried up his eyes and calmed all of his fears. Around from far away across the world he smelled good things to eat, so he gave up being king of where the wild things are and went down to set sail.
But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!” And Max said, NO!”
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws but Max stepped into his private boat and waved good-bye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of very own room where he found his supper waiting for him and it was still hot.
Awaiting Max was a hot meal. For all of Max’s wild deeds he was rewarded with a hot meal. He was nourished, sustained and loved in the midst of his wild ways. Imagine if we lived a life where the wild things are.
A place we can romp and rumble knowing we belong. This is the place where John’s Gospel tells us of. The place where we are wild and free. A place where we live in the Creator and the creator lives in us. A place where discipleship is a matter of relationship and no longer a matter of accounts and deeds that display the righteousness we so greatly desire.
As we live on in the word spoken to us, we grow into the wildness demanded by our new creation. The fruit we bear is not by our deeds but by the deeds of the one who tends to our wildness.
The journey we are on leads us to a wild place full of wild things. I wonder what the wild things are for you? For me where the wild things are exists in the hungry hearts of those that live in poverty. The wild things romp and stomp in the terrible eyes of those that seek to end marginalization of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered sisters and brothers.