John 15:4-5 – Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (NRSV)
The phone rang on my day off, rousing me from the kind of sleep which precedes fully waking up — the sort of quasi-sleep where one wakes for a second or two, scowls at the sun streaming through the closed blinds, and pulls the pillow over one's head in an attempt to return to enjoy a pleasant dream.
Normally when such calls come, they are bad news, but this one wasn't. The voice at the other end said, "I was just wondering if you could use some zucchini and apples."
Groggily, my brain began to respond to the growling of my stomach, which was alerting me to the need for breakfast, so with my mouth salivating at the mention of the word "apples", I said, "Oh, sure. I think I could use a few."
Shortly, there was a basket of luscious-looking golden delicious apples sitting on my front porch. Mmm, was I ever eager to taste those apples, for I do love golden delicious apples. As I took my first bite from the apple, my taste buds were wakened to the pleasant sensation of apple, slightly tart but wonderfully sweet.
Then while I continued to eat toward the core, suddenly a piece broke away, revealing a hollow core! This was a seedless apple. Only tiny withered seeds existed where full-bodied ones should have been. The tree had borne fruit, but the fruit of that tree would never produce new fruit trees! It was barren fruit. As I regarded this hollow apple, it seemed as if the Spirit spoke to my soul saying:
- This is how my church is. It appears to be fruitful, but all its deeds are hollow. There is no true seed of the Word to produce further fruit. So say to My people, do not be fooled by the appearance of fruitfulness, but be fruitfully productive, grounded in My Word.
No tree bears fruit by itself, but only as it is rooted in good, well-tilled, and manured soil. Only well-pruned trees produce an abundant harvest of well-formed fruit. Only branches which are green and firmly attached to the trunk transmit the sap of life to the fruit. Likewise, in Christ's church, only those who are well grounded in My Word, who mediate on My Word day and night, who then heed it, that is, who live accordingly and productively, will bear much fruit. All others are hollow, barren ministries producing hollow, barren, lifeless fruit.
So I will prune My church. I will till the soil in which I have planted it. I will manure it and spray it for parasites. This I will do to My church so that it may once again become fruitful, for I love My people, My church, with an everlasting love.
Thus the Lord seemed to say to my soul.
Prayer: O righteous Lord, Your Word is truth. With humble, contrite hearts we come to You to acknowledge that too often our lives have borne hollow fruit. We've heard Your Word, but not done it. We've acknowledged Your lordship, but done our own thing. We've become like branches which a storm has torn away from the trunk, so that the only attachment is tenuous. Graft us into Your Word once again, O God, so that we may once again become fruitful and so that Your name will be glorified. We pray in Christ's name. Amen.