A blog about relationship.
It’s all about relationship. That’s what this blog will be about.
Once again, I’ve discovered the obvious. When Jesus identifies himself with a grapevine and God the Father as the vinedresser, he’s not talking about making grapes. He’s talking about the resilient, relentlessly outstretching, and healthy life that God longs for all of us.
The reason the vine seems to be such a compelling image is that it provides us with so many ways of thinking about God and how God wants to be involved in our lives. We are more than molecular or cellular accidents that live lives of separateness and isolation from God and disconnected from each other. As parts of the vine we are, to borrow the image of the 12 century mystic and abbess St. Hildegaard von Bingen, ever-greening, and growing to the extent that we see ourselves abiding, hanging in there, remaining in the almost vascular presence of God.
We who listen deeply to friends who are “spiritual but not religious” have heard that, regardless of our different attitudes to organized religion, we share an awareness of the essential life-giving importance of community and connection. Human beings are supplied with not only the capacity but the intrinsic need for relationships that are holy, healthy, and creative. To see oneself as part of the vine could perhaps be more attractive than being part of a church or a denomination within the church because it is more organic than institutional, more about freedom and health than it is about bricks and mortar and politics.
As a bishop, I consider myself to be both spiritual and religious. I know that religion devoid of the spirit is deadly in every sense of the word. I am learning in my role that most of what I do is a meagre attempt to share in the vine dressing work of God, to try to make that the Spirit has room to grow us as we hope for the re-ligio, —the reconnecting—of our lives and communities in Christ.
The image of the Vine, as Jesus describes it in the Gospel of John, contains within it elements of the creative (you will bear fruit), stability (abide), learning and discipline (pruning the branches that do not bear fruit,) and joy (“that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”) The fifteenth chapter of John is rich with meanings. Likewise the experience of being a part of a modest diocese of the Church has seeming infinite opportunities to witness how God is tending the vine with our help. My hope is that this blog will be one small but good fruit of our life together as we abide in that vine for our own spiritual health and for the life of the world.
A. Robert Hirschfeld a husband, father, painter, writer/poet, sculler and the Tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire.