Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bear Fruit

I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach.  1 Timothy 6:13-14

“…But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”  Luke 8:15

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit. (John 15:5) 

Have you ever seen a wild grapevine?  In our backyard, there are no wild grapevines but plenty of other wild vines. 

Left to its own growth path, these Virginia Creepers and Kudzu in the back of 9505 Babson Court ramble through underbrush and cling to everything in their pathways.  They wrap themselves around deck railings, fences, trees and shrubbery.  It is very interesting to see the intersection of a wild vine and a chain link fence.  This “mawwage” results in a barber pole of twisted metal and branch.  Wild grapevines are the same.    

A well-tended vine—something I have seen growing on the hills of Tuscany and Northern Virginia and New Hampshire and New York—tell another story entirely. These vines are carefully cultivated to produce tall, sturdy, and productive plants. Thanks to careful pruning, these yield large clusters of healthy, sweet-tasting grapes that result in wines that many enjoy.

The vine grower must be totally dedicated to the vineyard if there is any hope of making it a “wineyard.”  Timothy exhorts the people to assume practices that demand total dedication to God and faultless witness to Christ throughout their lives if we have any hope of becoming authentic members of the family.  He asks us to live our Fourth Day with an awareness and respect/fear of the Lord, through faith, until Christ returns.  This is not a position we assume during a retreat or for one hour on Sunday.  This is a 24/7/365 occupation.

Luke recognizes that everyone will not assume these practices.  When we succeed in these practices, we become like the seed that falls on rich soil. The focus is on hearing the word through our piety and study and then acting upon it.  Thus, we are welcomed into the family of God in two stages.  First by our birth, we are all children of God.  Secondly, by our actions. Some family members fall away from that relationship when they fall on rocks or sandy soil.  Other persevere.  They embrace the word with a generous and good heart, and they “bear fruit” by acting on the Word.

“The small ways you live your life every day are what matter.”  Maybe you need more than just scripture and the exhortations of Timothy and Peter and Paul.  Here is the story of Abby Shapiro, a 16-year-old from Bethesda who died last week of bone cancer.  I think you can say that Abby Shapiro embraced life fully with a generous and good heart.  Her example bears fruit through perseverance. 

She died only months after a mundane nagging knee pain was diagnosed as osteosarcoma — a type of bone cancer — that quickly spread from her knee to her spine, throughout her central nervous system, to her lungs and to her brain.

In April, she started getting calls from college recruiters interested in having such a strong breastroker join their swim teams. About a month later, she was paralyzed and bed-ridden.

Her parents, Trudy Vincent and Rick Shapiro, went from making college plans for their only child to funeral plans in just five months.

As columnist Petula Dvorak writes in The Washington Post:  “But this? What can anyone learn from the cruelty of this kind of rapacious, random and merciless cancer?  Abby’s own way of living. That’s what there is to learn here.”

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