Sunday, May 10, 2009

A typhoon-proof vine

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2009

...I am the vine, you are the branches...

(John 15:1-8)
Jesus' discourse on the vine and the branches presents a very rich allegory: faith, trials,
communion, spiritual gifts, good works, a life-giving relationship, salvation. I once had a lively debate with a fundamentalist friend with his contention of "once saved, always saved". How can he reconcile this with Jesus' assertion that the branches that does not remain in the vine are gathered, thrown and burned? In the first place, if the branch was once connected, and then was broken off later (as it did not bear fruit), it was clear that the branch basked in God's graces at one time but did not elect to stay connected. The branch did not bear fruit - good works to my mind. This is another flash point, as fundamentalists reject the salvific value of good works: faith is enough. Catholics on the other hand say: faith AND good works. I remember he launched into a Pauline discourse to the effect that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Sure I say, but we retain the will to accept or reject God's grace. He insists that Jesus' death would have been meaningless if "faith only" was not enough. But it's ok, although our discussion goes on in circles, this fundamentalist guy remains my friend even as we exasperate each other. I pray he gets to swim across the Tiber sometime.

Speaking of vines, I have this peculiar vine in our garden that never fails to be a conversation piece with
visitors. Funny thing is I don't even know the name of the plant, as I just inherited it from the previous owner. I transferred a sapling about two years ago and now it has grown to over 20 feet. Notice how it climbs up the wall with apparently no support except that its leaves seem to attach themselves tenaciously to the wall. Its round, flat leaves seem adapted to attaching to flat walls like there were an adhesive. It must also have a pretty sturdy stem underneath, as this part of the garden is buffeted by fairly strong winds. I think it is the collective strength of the leaves attached to a strong stem that makes the entire thing flourish in spite of the strong winds. That is why even many typhoons cannot strip this plant - the leaves provide strength to each other. Hmm, I think there's more to add to the allegory.


Anonymous said...

Hi Willy,

Right you are bro. We all must make that decision to stay connected - to each other and to the source of all life. Faith is needed but we also have to act it out. And this is where it can get interesting. As individual members of this body of Christ we are responsible for what we contribute to it. So if I cause a branch, a member of the body, to suffer then I cause suffering throughout the whole vine. That implies that each sin I commit affects the whole Church, doesn't it?

On the other hand my good works must also benefit the whole vine, even if it was done to only one of the branches. The acts that we do to maintain good relations, treat each other with compassion and mercy, love God and one another are perhaps the "adhesive" that keep us connected to the vine.

Interesting plant you have. Weird thing is I recently saw a similar picture.
I don't know the vine's name but check this link out.

- TE

WillyJ said...

Amazing, and found in the rain-forest of Costa Rica! It seems exactly the same as my plant. I wonder how it got to grow in our garden, right here in a village in Quezon City. I don't see these kind of plants being sold in garden shops hereabouts. Obviously, one can't grow in a pot. Strange.

aeisiel said...

In Rom 8:39 the phrase "nor anything in all creation" is the key here, Paul is saying that it is not a claim that salvation is absolutely assured for believers, but a claim that salvation cannot be threatened by any cosmic force outside us... the real threat to our salvation is from within, our free will to do something which God has not created - the act of rejecting God’s love by giving in to evil through sin.

WillyJ said...

Ah yes, thanks for reminding me. ..."For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities.... I think we discussed salvation for about, what...6 months? I learned a lot from those exchanges. I think I'm going to send him an email what he thinks about suffering (another thread here). Watch your inbox.

aeisiel said...

Suffering, ey... I better take a refresher course on the Book of Job then :) 'looking forward in reading your post.