Tue, 21 May 2019
(Acts 15:1-6; Ps.122:1-5; Jn.15:1-8)
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And within Him we must remain; nurtured by the Church He has planted we must always be. We must have His blood flowing in our veins and His Word inspiring our souls. There can be no separation from Him and from His teaching if we are to bear fruit abundantly, as is the Father’s desire.
Paul and Barnabas bear fruit abundantly. As “the church saw them off… they made their way through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling everyone about the conversion of the Gentiles as they went.” And to each branch of the vine they went, “their story caused great joy among the brothers.” Here is the vine’s growth evident, the blood of the Lord coursing through its veins. “When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by that church,” too, and there they “reported all that God had helped them accomplish” to the apostles. Why have they come here to Jerusalem? Because “in it are set up judgment seats.” As great as their work had been, yet they knew the necessity to be obedient to the structure of the vine the Lord tends by His hand. And so when a controversial question arises, Paul and Barnabas “go up to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem” to find answer.
Why Jerusalem? Because the Church, the New Jerusalem, is “built as a city with compact unity,” and still at this time the Rock, Peter, and the foundation stones, the twelve apostles, reside in this place. If one separates oneself from the roots of this vine, one effectively separates oneself from Jesus and becomes “like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt.” “No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me,” Jesus instructs His disciples. And Paul and Barnabas know the order that must be preserved if the vine is to remain whole, if their work is to be truly fruitful. So here as to the question of circumcision, the first major controversy in the early Church, “the elders accordingly convened to look into the matter.”
“If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will – it will be done for you.” The Lord’s promise is great. But to receive such grace we must keep our feet firmly planted within the gates of the New Jerusalem, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church He has founded. We should rejoice to “go up to the house of the Lord,” for there we shall find Jesus, there we shall find His vine spreading faithfully to the ends of the earth – in it we shall always be nourished by truth.
O LORD, may your Church bear much fruit
in you and in your Son;
with you let us be one.
YHWH, to your House let us come; in your City let us dwell – in the New Jerusalem let us make our home and we shall ever remain united to your Son and bear fruit in His Name. Apart from Him we can do nothing, and if we separate ourselves from the Church He founded, we separate ourselves from Him… and His blood does not course through our veins.
O LORD, let us display the obedience of Paul and Barnabas to the rightful authority you set up to stand in the stead of your Son. If we listen to these, we listen to Him, and thus your will is done. If we take matters into our own hands, what hope have we of salvation, for what does man make but destruction? Let us not be unfruitful branches fit for the fire but be pruned of all uncleanness of heart by the Word your Son speaks through the apostles and elders of holy Church. Only in this way will we be one with one another and with you.