This Sunday’s Gospel reading is John 15.1-8
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
It’s common today for people to say religion is a personal, ‘private’ thing. In one way that’s true – our relationship with God is intimate. Like the closest human relationships, it involves tenderness and vulnerability. But religion is also about community. Jesus tells us in this Gospel that we must abide in the ‘true vine’ – and as we are grafted closer to him, we are necessarily drawn into a closer fellowship with our fellow human beings.
We live in a world which is increasingly individualistic. In the weeks ahead, our Sunday Gospels repeatedly make clear that our relationship with the people we can see is vital to our relationship with the God we cannot see. We do not deepen our relationship with God by turning our backs on one another – it is in the depth of our love for one another that we touch the heart of the divine.
An increasing number of Christians feel called to live in community in urban contexts – a movement of ‘new urban monasticism’ which has much to learn from the faithful ministry of religious orders such as the Society of Saint Francis. Please pray for those called to the religious life in our inner-cities, and for those exploring a call to live in new intentional communities.
Pray for the Church Urban Fund and Contextual Theology Centre in their work with both expressions of Christian service and mission – and for Mike Buckley, conducting research for CTC on these issues in Tower Hamlets.