Tuesday, January 02, 2024



The fruitful vine is a metaphor employed by several of the prophets whose words are recorded in the Hebrew Bible. It stands for a community that has been restored, sometimes having been transplanted from one place to another, that has been re-established and is enjoying a new security, following a time of distress, defeat and (often) displacement. Isaiah sees it as something waiting three years from now (three being a symbolic number) with the grace of God and nature bridging the gap (2 Kings 19 // Isaiah 37).

It becomes a national symbol for Israel. On the night of his arrest, Jesus takes up this image, blesses it, breaks it, and shares it with his disciples, saying that he is the vine and they are the branches: alone, they can bear no fruit, but if they hide their lives within his life (which is about to pass through death, and rise again on the third day) they will bear much fruit.

As often the case with metaphors, living a fruitful life is easier to understand than to explain. And easier to see in others than in ourselves. But the world around us tells us that we should be fruitful and that the way to be more fruitful is by greater resolve, planning, and action; and especially if last year was a hard one, if our resolutions ground to a halt in the deep gravel run-off of February:

“2024 will be the year that I run that marathon/lose weight/become a better person/fill in the gap.”

In contrast (not that plans, or action are necessarily bad) Jesus says that the key to fruitfulness is connection to him, in whom humanity and divinity are joined.

I am grateful to those who reveal to me the fruitfulness of my life, expressed in what I write and how I live. For the person who wrote to me to let me know how helpful something I had written and shared had been to them at this moment in their life, something of which they trusted me with knowing. For the person who wrote to let me know that the decisions I had made and actions I had taken over the past year had inspired them. For the person who trusted me enough to ask to come and talk to me, that I might listen, and perhaps even offer some wisdom. All these, just in the final weeks of last year. All helpful, not to massage a fragile ego, but to reveal fruitfulness I myself might struggle to recognise.

I share this not to ‘big myself up’ but to encourage you that if you see fruitfulness in someone's life, let them know. And may someone reveal to you your own fruitfulness. Or, at least, point to it, waiting for you, three years from now, keeping hope alive.


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