Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of Mine that bears no fruit, He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in Me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. John 15:1-7
Good morning Prayer Team!
Going back to our theme on the importance of reading the Bible, this morning’s verses take us to Christ’s teachings about the vine and the branches. At summer camp, I gave a sermon on this topic during which I took two branches from a tree, one which had I had just removed from the tree and another stick which had been lying in the woods for some time.
The branch that I had just removed from the tree was very pretty. It was covered with green leaves. It was strong and beautiful. The branch that had been laying in the forest was brittle. While it looked strong from a distance, I could put my thumb right through it. Gently tapping it against the ground, it broke in half.
The lesson here is that the branches cannot abide away from the tree trunk. If you take a branch away from the main tree, it is pretty for a little while but soon the leaves die and fall off, and after a certain period of time, even the wood becomes brittle and useless.
It is the same with us and our abiding as branches on the vine, Christ. If we go without Christ, we will be okay for a while, just like the branch that has newly been removed from the tree. We might even be okay for a lengthy period of time. But eventually we will become brittle, whether that is in a physical way as we age, or in a mental way or in an emotional or spiritual way. Because when we try to live without Christ, life lacks purpose, focus, direction and hope. Again, I can do all of these things on a given day without Christ. But I can’t sustain them over the long-haul of my life without them. The successful life is lived abiding in the vine, where we stay attached to the tree.
One other note, which also comes from this Bible passage—when a branch is healthy, sometimes the healthy branch is pruned, some of it is cut away and disposed of, so that the branch may grow even stronger and healthier. In our lives, sometimes it is necessary to prune ourselves or allow ourselves to be pruned, so that the bad part of us are taken away but the good parts are allowed to grow stronger and more healthy.
Pruning, or healthy trimming, is done through daily prayer and scripture reading. These things not only define us but they help refine us. They make us more Christ-centered and more focused on Him. The sacrament of confession helps in this regard as well. But most of us do not go to confession on a daily basis or a weekly basis. Daily pruning is done through prayer and reading the Bible. Pruning is good. A total cutting off of a branch is bad. So, we use the Bible to help us stay with the vine, pruning the parts of us that take us away from the Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ.
O Lord, thank You for being our vine. Thank You for creating us and attaching us to You as the branches. Help me to stay one with You in all that I am doing today. Prune me so that I can grow even stronger. And when I cut myself off from the vine, in Your mercy, accept me as I reattach myself. Please inspire me to abide in You. Please take Your abode in me today! Amen.
Abide in God today!
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