April 29, 2018–Grow Up and Grow Out

Posted on April 24, 2018 by faithlens

Tuhina Rasche, San Carlos, CA

 

Warm-up Question

  • Who are the people that connect you to community?
  • What are the feelings and emotions that keep you connected to people within a community?

Grow Up and Grow Out

I’ve moved around the United States a few times, but the hardest move of all was the first one. I grew up in the same house and went to elementary, middle, and most of high school with a lot of the same people, many of them my bffs (best friends forever). Then the move happened. It came between my junior and senior years of high school. I moved from a suburb just outside of Denver, Colorado to a place that was completely different: rural South Carolina. I moved to a town called Walhalla, which was covered in a vine called kudzu (Learn more about kudzu in the United States at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu_in_the_United_States). I was the new kid in school my senior year of high school. I repeatedly thought to myself, “My senior year wasn’t supposed to happen this way! I should be with my friends in Denver enjoying all the things we’re supposed to do together: run for student council, go to football games, go to our last dances, talk about what colleges we’re planning to attend, and graduate.”

That last year of high school in rural South Carolina wasn’t a total bust, though. I made new friends who supported me during a really weird and awkward transition. Sure, a lot of the people I met that senior year of high school in South Carolina grew up in the local town. They had their own bffs and cliques they were a part of from elementary school to middle school to high school. They were also looking forward to their last year of high school with similar activities and milestones. I became a part of an unexpected community. It also took risk; I was terrified of being the new kid and making new friends, and those at my new school had to take a chance on getting to know and maybe even befriend the new kid.

I was also grateful for my friends back in Denver. In an age before social media and mobile phones, we did some really ancient practices: we mailed each other letters and we called one another on the phone. Just because I moved across the country didn’t mean my friends back home forgot about me; we reached out to one another across a few thousand miles to support one another in student council elections, writing for the school paper, trying to figure out who would be our dates to the next dance, where we were planning to attend college, and our plans between high school graduation and the beginning of a new adventure.

I’m years out of high school and a lot has changed. So many of my friends have moved away from their childhood homes, and at the same time, I also have friends who don’t have plans to move. I also don’t have the exact same friend group from my last year of high school. While I still have some of the same friends, there have been the realities of time, distance, and broken relationships that have concluded some friendships. With growth comes some change; it’s a lot like pruning a vine.

As I think about my communities of friends, both in Denver, Colorado and rural South Carolina, I’m reminded that even though moving away from home was hard, my friends from home and I were able to support one another. I also made new friends in South Carolina. This reminded me of the nature of vines; they don’t stay in the same place. Vines grow up, but then they grow out. Branches then grow off of the vine. Even though branches grow out into different areas, they are still connected to one another through the vine. This is also the nature of being followers of Christ; we are in community with one another, reminding one another of not just who we are, but whose we are. We are in community to love one another, care for one another, and support one another. In this love, care, and support for one another we are tied together by who we are in our baptisms. The vine is Jesus Christ, who loves us, cares for us, and supports us wherever we go and in whatever we do.

Discussion Questions

  • Who has been your friend for the longest amount of time? What keeps you connected to the person you’ve known the longest? Who is your most recent friend? What brought you into a friendship with this person?
  • Read the link about kudzu in the United States. Why do you think kudzu grew so well in a place that wasn’t its original home?
  • What is the hardest thing about moving from one place to another? What are ways that you can maintain connections from one place and also build connections in a new location?

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 8:26-40

1 John 4:7-21

John 15:1-8

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Images of plant life show up in each of the Gospels.  From seeds to trees to weeds, the imagery of plants in the Gospels is a way to talk about abundant life (or lack thereof). Today’s Gospel talks about not just vines, but also vine growers and branches. We are called into new and abundant life, being in relationship with God and one another, which is illustrated in the intertwined relationship between the vine grower, the vine, the branches, and the fruits of the vine.

Christians are called to be in many relationships, the primary one being with God. That relationship is made known in our baptisms, where we are claimed by God who loves us, marked with the cross of Christ, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Even in times of doubt, God always wants to be in relationship with us. We are also called to be in relationship with one another. Baptisms usually happen in Christian community; we aren’t expected to go alone on our faith journeys. When we’re baptized, the community around us makes promises before God and one another to support us and pray for us. Being Christian means that our lives are tied together with everyone throughout the church, be it our friend, the new kid, or that person that we do not like so much.

The word “abide” appears multiple times in today’s Gospel reading, to the point that it’s confusing. “Abiding” is all about  the importance of  relationships.  God’s desire to be in relationship with us is shown in the person of Jesus walking and talking in the world, and also in God’s presence with each of us in Holy Communion and in our baptisms.

The vine grower is God, the vine is Jesus, and the branches represent how we can be in a relationship with God, Jesus, and fellow siblings in the faith. Some branches directly interact with others, while some branches, connected to the vine, are physically separated from one another. Just like plants, communities and relationships need care to grow and flourish. Sometimes branches need to be pruned for the vine to grow and bear more fruit; sometimes relationships with our siblings in Christ also have life cycles. Some can last for a lifetime, and some can last for just a season. What remains constant is Christ the vine and God the vine grower,  reaching out to us through Holy Communion, Baptism, and the relationships we have with one another.

Discussion Questions

  • Abiding appears multiple times in today’s Gospel lesson. What does the word “abiding” mean to you? How do you see abiding lived out in your faith community? Where could you see more abiding taking place in your faith community?
  • Being in community is an important part of Christian identity. Being a follower of Christ is dependent upon multiple relationships: God’s relationship with Jesus, God’s relationship with you, your relationship with God, and relationships between siblings in the faith. That is a lot of relationships. Who are the people that keep you connected to your faith community, and what are they ways they keep you connected? How do you connect with others in your community?

Activity Suggestions

  • Plant a small garden together, either in an open area of land or in small containers. Consider then how to care for the plants within the garden. Who will water the seedlings? Will you need plant food or fertilizer? If so, who will take on that task? If the plants need a trim, who will do that? Talk about how the plants change and grow. Also talk about how the community is (or isn’t) working together to make sure the garden flourishes.
  • How is your faith community connected to the outside world? Is there participation in local, state, national, and international connections? Take an opportunity to reflect on the connectedness of your faith community. Are there gaps where your faith community can participate? If so, how could your faith community further participate in being connected to the greater world?
  • Find a pad of green sticky notes. Have each person write a prayer on the sticky note (but no names), and stick the note to the wall. After everyone has written one prayer on one sticky note, look at each note on the wall and pray for one another. Take home a sticky note that is not your own and continue to pray for that person throughout the week.

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for being the vine to our branches. Thank you for connecting us to one another through your Son, Jesus Christ. In these connections, remind us to reach out to one another as you always reach out to us. Amen.

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