WHERE DO YOU MAKE YOUR HOME? – Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B

May 2, 2021

Revised Common Lectionary
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Acts 9:26-31
Psalm 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32 (26a)
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

Where do you make your home? There are of course many ways to answer that question. You could respond with a street address, a city, or a country. You could describe your house, apartment, or room. You could name the people with whom you live. You could even cite a group or activity, as in “I feel most at home on the soccer field.” That simple question can mean many different things and so could be answered in a variety of ways.

When Andrew and another, unnamed disciple of John the Baptist first caught sight of Jesus and asked, “Where are you staying?” (Jn 1:38), they could hardly have imagined where that question would lead them. His invitation to “come and see” (1:39) was simply the beginning of an answer, taking them not to his place of residence, but rather on a journey that would reveal what it means to stay, dwell, remain, and live with him and in him.

Significantly, the Greek word for “stay” used by the disciples in that question is a form of the very same verb that is used by Jesus seven times in today’s Gospel reading. The Greek verb meno has many shades of meaning and could be translated not only as stay, but also as remain, abide, or dwell. Because of this connection, the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel could be understood at last as his definitive answer to the disciples’ much earlier question, “Where do you stay?”

This passage is just one small section of the lengthy farewell discourse that comprises more than four full chapters in the Gospel of John. As he gathered with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion, Jesus is preparing them for their life on the other side of his death and resurrection.

Where does Jesus abide? The kind of abiding that Jesus is speaking about is far more than hanging out or sharing a place; it is deeply relational. Jesus “stays” or “abides” both in God and in those who follow him. He abides in the Father and the Father abides in him. Just so, he commands them, they should abide in him just as he abides in them.

And just how does Jesus abide in us who are his disciples? Using a beautiful and richly organic image, Jesus utters the last of his “I am” statements in the Gospel of John: “I am the true vine” (15:1, 5). God is the vine grower, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches.

When we live in Jesus, we also live in God and God lives in us. Just as God is at times portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures as tending the vine which is Israel, the chosen people, so here Jesus declares that he is the true vine that God cultivates. As branches on the vine, abiding in Christ, we receive our very life from the nutrients that flow into us from Christ.

It might be tempting to stop right here, to rest in the beauty of this image, to “abide” happily ever after. Yet one of the things that the disciples learned during their journeys with Jesus is that he dwells in all kinds of places, especially among those in need, healing the sick and feeding the multitude. As we are nourished by the vine which is Christ, we are to be like him in bearing fruit, serving and making a difference for others.

Jesus also recalls for his followers what every gardener already knows—that branches must be cut back from time to time if they to produce the richest fruit. This last point may be hard to accept at times, but it is an important reminder for disciples who will face hardship and even death, just as he did.

Those first two disciples could never have known the depth of the question that they posed to Jesus upon first meeting him. After his resurrection they would remember the many places in which he stayed, his invitation to dwell in him, and his promise to abide in them. As we carry on his mission by serving others and bearing fruit, even in the face of struggle and failure, we know that the Risen One lives in us and remains with us.

A Hymn for Today: “I Am the Vine”

John L. Bell, FHS, a member of the Iona Community and an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland, has made an enormous impact on congregational song as a text writer, composer, teacher, workshop leader, collaborator—and an extraordinary leader of communal song. As with many of his songs that focus on discipleship and mission, this text, based on today’s Gospel reading, draws attention to our call to bear fruit as we remain in Christ.

I am the vine and you are the branches,
Pruned and prepared for all to see;
Chosen to bear the fruit of heaven
If you remain and trust in me.

So let my joy complete and cheer you
In whom my hope and kingdom lies;
Loving each other as I have loved you,
Savor that love which never dies.

Stay close and root my words within you:
What you request, you soon shall have
Until you carry fruit in plenty,
Nourished and fertile through my love.

I am the vine and you are the branches,
Pruned and prepared for all to see;
Chosen to bear the fruit of heaven
If you remain and trust in me.

Text: John 15:5; John L. Bell, b. 1949. © 1995, Iona Community, GIA Publications, agent. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.

Image: Afton Mountain Vineyards, Afton, Virginia

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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