“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in them will bear much fruit…”
I walk the same little route around my neighborhood each day and this vine growing through the fence really jumped out at me. The ivy plant encountered a foreboding obstacle in the fence there. But the plant just found a way to grow through the obstacle and keep growing. I find this such a good image for us during these difficult days. We are up against a huge obstacle in this virus. It seems to be blocking our every way forward; keeping us from gathering and enjoying the things we enjoy doing. It may be keeping us from our livelihoods, supporting our families, doing our work. It is robbing people of their health and, tragically, their very lives. It is a foreboding foe.
But look at the tenacity of this ivy plant! I see a determination to grow despite the tremendous fence blocking its way. It finds the tiniest little crevice to push through and grow, reaching a state of strength and beauty on the other side. I see us doing that, too. I see people stretching themselves and poking through the narrowest openings to grow through this pandemic and become stronger. We will be different when this is behind us, but we must grow through with courage so, when we emerge, we will see we have changed for the better.
What does growing through this difficulty look like? It looks like people being creative in how they manage it all. Being creative in how they reach out to others, for we can clearly see this ivy reaching out through the fence. This is not just about us at all! It is about how we extend past our own little selves and how we try to help others. The ivy could have just given up, stopped growing and stayed on the other side of the fence. But it didn’t. It tenaciously saw an opening and pushed through. That may be our call, too.
When big obstacles are overcome, the one overcoming them becomes stronger. There is strength to be gained through perseverance and persistence. The ivy on the outside of the fence is stronger for having gone through it, and, hopefully, we will be stronger as people having gone through this difficult time.
I can see the ivy giving its gift of beauty to all who walk by. We are called to use the gifts God has given us, sharing whatever we can with others. If we have the gift of time, let’s use it to help others who can’t get out by grocery shopping or running errands for them. We can use our time to call people who may be lonely or feel isolated. If we are gifted with the ability to bake, we can share our baked goods with others. If we are gifted musically, let’s find some creative way to share that gift online or through a concert in the neighborhood. Let’s creatively find ways to use our unique gifts for others.
Most importantly, Jesus described himself as the vine and we are the branches. Jesus supports us as we grow through the obstacles and difficulties in our paths. As we take quiet time to ponder and pray, asking God for guidance, Jesus will guide our way. We are accompanied as we grow in the most supported way possible. Some day we will look back on this time and be able to see the fruit yielded. Or not. The fruit may not always be apparent to us, but can we trust that our desire to grow and help will result in good, strong fruit? Of course, we can! God works together for our good, always.
Last Sunday’s Gospel was the Kingdom of God described as a tiny mustard seed, growing into a huge plant. The Kingdom was also described as a bit of yeast able to leaven a whole loaf of bread. Our small efforts can be touched by God and grown into good much greater than we could think possible. We may see ourselves as small and our work insignificant in the Big Picture. But the exact opposite is true. God multiplies and magnifies our efforts to make a great deal of good for the world. We cannot imagine how, in our smallness, God’s greatness can shine through. Like the ivy plant poking its way through the huge obstacle of the fence, God will guide our growth forward, through the crevice, into strength and beauty on the other side.
Gracious and loving God, we trust that you are truly the vine, guiding our growth as branches. Right now, we feel confounded by obstacles and barriers to our way forward in this time of pandemic. Please light our way, guide our path, and show us your glory during this difficult time. Thank you for your lessons in nature, teaching us that there is always a way forward, if we trust in you. Amen.