A character in one of my favorite western novels, Lonesome Dove, is so fond of a Latin dictum that he emblazons it, albeit somewhat incorrectly, on a sign. The phrase seems to mean something along the lines of, “A grape changes color when it sees another grape.” The idea, as the novel goes on to suggest, is that we cannot help but be changed by the people in our lives. We absorb who and what we are around, even if we are not entirely conscious of it.
I find much in my life that is owed to the people around me. If I am in any way headed in the direction of intellectual and spiritual maturity, it is due in no small part to these people. Their lives continually influence and transform my own—and I hope that maybe even the opposite is true.
It seems to me that in one sense this is what Jesus is talking about when he says, “Remain in me . . . No branch can bear fruit by itself . . . If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (NIV). The idea here is proximity, connectedness—surrounding ourselves and staying close to whom and to what we want to be most like. Each time I read about Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels or the faith of the early Christians in Acts, I cannot help but be changed by what I read. When I am part of a community that shows Christlike love and compassion to others, the odds of my doing the same are good. Jesus’ invitation to remain in him is an invitation to relationship, a relationship that is life-giving and bound to change us more than any other.
Thank you, God, for the people who accompany us along our journey through life. Amen.
Two primary themes emerge from our readings for this week. In Psalm 22, we find the promise that faraway nations will turn and worship the Lord. The book of Acts provides partial fulfillment of this promise. Through the action of the Spirit, a court official from Ethiopia hears the gospel and can take it home to his native land. The Johannine readings focus on abiding in God. “God is love,” the epistle states, so all who claim to abide in God manifest love to the world. The author pushes the point: If we maintain animosity toward others, we cannot claim to remain in the love of God. In John, Jesus states that we must remain in him if we want to bear good fruit for God.
Read Acts 8:26-40. When has an unexpected encounter led you to a deeper understanding of God?
Read Psalm 22:25-31. Recalling that Psalm 22 begins with the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” do these verses of praise seem surprising? When have you seen this kind of movement in your spiritual journey?
Read 1 John 4:7-21. How does your assurance of God’s love for you move you to love others?
Read John 15:1-8. How secure do you feel about being attached to the vine? What has God done in your life to make it more productive?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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