Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
By Katie Brendler
“I am the vine; you are the branches.” (John 15:5).
What image comes to your mind when you hear this? Maybe it’s an image of some nicely manicured vines, perhaps with some mature grapes ready for harvest. That’s the picture we often see on religious art, and it’s beautiful, but for me it seems too perfect, too pretty. I’d be ecstatic if my life really was that easy and well organized. Instead, my life feels more like my elementary school friends singing a song based in part on this verse. Picture it:
Grandma Pat’s leading us; I’m strumming my ukulele; and 20 kids, 5-10 years old, are singing along when they remember the words:
“Glory, glory, we’re the branches.
Glory, glory, we’re the the branches.
And that’s why I’m bananas for our God.”
Somewhere as we act out being the branches of a tree by standing on one foot and wiggling limbs, someone falls over. This could have been tear inducing or embracing to say the least for my small friend. Instead, another kid wiggles themselves right on the floor next to them. Giggles abound, and more and more trees are waving themselves onto the floor.
If you’re like me and feel like you’re a branch that’s struggling to find balance, remember that in these 17 verses, Jesus says “remain” 11 times. Remain – continue to be – knowing that God is holding you even when life doesn’t feel so stable. Know that you are loved for who you are, even if you don’t feel like you look like the other branches.
And when you’re feeling grounded, remember the rest of Jesus’ charge to us: “Love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (vv. 12-13). Laying our life down doesn’t have to be so extreme; sometimes it’s falling on the floor so somebody’s not alone. It’s not always the big moments that change people’s days or even lives, but the small moments of kindness that say “I see you and you matter.”
So from one wiggling branch to another, I say: The struggle is real, but you’re not alone. Hey friend, I love you.
Katie Brendler is a master of divinity student at San Francisco Theological Seminary.