It has been a lousy news week. Last weekend, one of the strongest earthquakes in the last century struck Nepal causing massive damage, a death toll expected to exceed 10,000 affecting more than 8 million. Nepal is a country woefully unprepared for such a disaster and has still not reached some of the more remote villages that have been leveled.
In Baltimore racial tensions, driven particularly by questions about the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve and the death of an African-American young man while in custody, boiled over into the streets.
The Gospel of John has a fascinating literary structure. With the number seven symbolically representing perfection, John’s gospel has seven signs – sometimes called miracles – indicating who Jesus is and seven metaphorical statements by Jesus about who he is. “I am the vine, you re the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”
One common interpretation of this passage is that unless you bear fruit, you will get pruned; cut off from the vine and thrown into the fire. I think it is a horrible interpretation. For one thing, it makes “bearing fruit” a work; something you have to accomplish. For another, those who interpret it that way assume they know who should be cut off.
Here is a different take: this passage is not so much about judgment as it is about community. Pick a tomato while it is green and it will not ripen; cut a branch from the stem and it will not grow.
Pointing fingers at the police and shouting “fascists,” or pointing fingers at young black men and shouting “thugs” will not restore the community. There is a systemic problem. Community has broken down in ways that pointing out a culprit will not put together. Many in Baltimore understand that and are striving to find ways to reconnect the community. There may still be dark days ahead, but the sprouts of hope can be seen amidst the ruble.
In the midst of an overwhelming natural disaster, the Nepalese are being reminded that they are part of a world community. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of that community. This Sunday we will be taking a special offering for Lutheran Disaster Response. For more information on how to help in Nepal, go to: http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7739.
It has been a tough week in the news, but the Easter promise calls us to light of hope even in the midst of darkness. By staying connected, we grow to what we are intended to be and there are no more “those people,” just, “our people.”
Here is Psalm 42:9-11
I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”
As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.