“I am the vine, you are the branches.” (Jn.15:5) Jesus utters these words to his disciples during the Last Supper. They are part of his farewell to these friends and followers as he prepares them for his betrayal and death. As the Gospel of John tells the story this farewell begins with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples – an image of love and service to which they are called as well. (Jn.13)
Jesus’ farewell ends with a prayer for his disciples. In this prayer he says: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe through them, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn.17:20-21)
As our diocese moves into a realignment of communities for revitalization, Jesus’ farewell to his disciples presents us with both a challenge and a direction. We are, all of us, branches on the vine, disciples of Jesus attached to him and holding his spirit. He is in all of us. His image of love for all is our image. His mission is our mission to the whole world.
As we move forward, uniting communities, addressing the needs of all, sharing resources and gifts of time and talent, we face the challenge of being the face of Jesus now. The revitalization that is our vision and hope will only come if the Spirit of Jesus is expressed in our attitude and our action. The mission we have been given will only be accomplished if we can recognize Jesus in us and in how we act together.
The Acts of the Apostles which we read throughout the Easter season describes the first Christian communities, our ancestors in the faith. A few weeks ago, on the 2nd Sunday of Easter we heard what many would see as an ideal for Christians. Acts tells us that: “The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul…” (Acts 4:32-35)
Ideals, visions, hopes often seem beyond our reach. At the same time responding to a call and undertaking a mission is always a challenge to us. We need such hope and vision in order to come to life, to bring life to others. The image of that early community of disciples in Acts offers us such a vision and hope. It is a challenge, but filled with Jesus’ spirit, we can indeed bring Jesus’ face to our world. What must we give, how must we change that we be communities joined together and “of one heart and soul”? Can we reveal in word and action the face of Jesus in our new communities and in our world?