It feels like a distant memory now, being in a large crowd. But I do remember trying to navigate crowds with two kids in tow. “Stay close,” I would say, and eventually grab their wrists so I could keep hold of them as I would try to navigate to our exit. The only way I felt like I wouldn’t lose them was to stay connected. Hand – in – hand.
I feel like that might be what Jesus is saying to his disciples in John 15 (below). He is preparing them for the time when he will not be there: “Connect to me, now, while I’m here, so you will know how to stay connected when I am not here anymore.”
There is so much in our lives and in our world that moves us to disconnect. As we are feeling crowded and overwhelmed in our lives, hear Jesus say to us, “Stay close.” When life sends us into our next thing—next job, living place, semester, relationship, next phase of life—hear Jesus say to us, “Stay close.” When the next step is a blur, when we know what we have left behind, but are unsure of what the next thing actually looks like, let Jesus lead.
Sometimes, we, like children, need to be grabbed by the hand and gently led to where we can flourish, where we can produce fruit.
“Stay close,” Jesus continues to lean over and say to us.
Read John 15:1-5
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.
Reflect: How are you staying connected to the one, the life-giver, the source, the sustainer? What practices of prayer are sustaining you these days? Are you studying the Word? Are you listening to prophetic voices in our midst? Are you lamenting, for yourself and the world? Are you offering thanksgivings and praises? Are you praying and asking on behalf of others?
Take Action: This month, be intentional about staying connected. Identify someone in your life who helps keep you connected and reach out to them. Offer to be a mutual encourager and tell them you are trusting them to hold you accountable and to offer support when needed.
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women
We are grateful to the Rev. Liz Roberts, pastor at Fairmont UMC and the Raleigh Wesley Foundation, for writing this month’s issue of Encouragements.