"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." John 15:4 (NIV)In the early morning sun, grapes hung fragrant, ripe and heavy from the vine. The vineyard buzzed with activity from both man and bee as we harvested our community's first autumn crop. I met the challenge cheerfully, anticipatipating time spent outdoors tending the vines alongside my husband and neighbors.
Conversations in the field were as plentiful as the grapes. Some were boisterous and jolly, awaiting the end-of-harvest drinks shared in celebration. Others were soft spoken and patient as they taught their little ones the proper way to cut the fruit from the vine.
There was so much going on around me but the more grapes I harvested the more I found my spirit contemplating the lessons in the vine.
The harvesting technique is most important for the future life of the branch. The harvester gently holds the grape cluster in one hand and while cutting the branch as close to the fruit as possible, leaving the leafy part attached to the vine. Cut too much of the branch away and it will no longer produce fruit.
First fruits, harvested at just the right time, are full and ready to burst. The grapes are plentiful, closely entangled and difficult to separate from the vine. Sometimes, they are so plentiful that they have grafted themselves into the vine. There is promise of much wine.
Neglected fruit, harvested too late, is either rotten or shriveled up, good only for the scavenger birds.
Unripened fruit, harvested too early, is small, hard, and bitter. Their easily separated and the farmer discards these to save his wine from their bitterness.
Late fruits remain in the vine a bit longer. They endure shorter days, cooler temperatures and the first hard snap of frost. But, from these hardships comes the sweetest, most succulant dessert wine that tastes like sunshine on the tongue.
Ahhh. Harvest time - celebrating the fruit of our labors - when the vine keepers pour out the wine in honor of their sweet labor representing countless celebrations to come.
The fruit multiplies and satisfies thousands!
How so as we think about abiding in the Vine, who is Christ. We must remain (abide) in Him to produce any fruit and as we remain the fruit of our relationship ripens - becomes plentiful, abundant, enticing, and sweet. Then harvest comes and the Vine Keeper distributes our fruit and satisfies thousands.
And what of our hardships? Like the late fruit that endure the harshest conditions, from our own hardships comes wisdom, compassion, our very best as long as we remain in Him.