The backyard peach tree was such a delight. It was ancient, huge, and produced an amazing crop of golden peaches every summer. I loved climbing up into fruitful vastness, playing in its shade, and most of all raiding it’s luscious, golden spheres of sweetness. Sometimes I was a little too adventurous and a branch would split or break under my weight and then a cluster of small, green peaches would never achieve their required goal golden delight – the branch dying and falling out of the tree, warning my dad that I’d been up in forbidden territory – again. Forbidden because we all loved the preserved peaches that blessed our desserts through Hamilton’s frosty winters and the more peaches that reached maturity the greater the blessing.
That marvellous old peach tree gave our family three kinds of delight; First, in the early spring (and all through summer), it gave shade and a cool place to sit at a picnic table and enjoy salads in the backyard; second in later spring, in was covered in beautiful, delicate peach blossoms, giving their own charm to our gardens; finally, there was the summer joy of the fruit that could be enjoyed in season and out of season; and knowing that in the fruit is the future of the plant in it’s seed.
Destined to be fruitful Fruit is not only the expected purpose of a grapevine or a peach tree, it is as above, the renewal of the plant as it bears the seed so that the plant can be sown in places where faraway others can enjoy what those native to the plant know. This is why Jesus emphasises so strongly the issue of fruitfulness, our fruitfulness; that is why He comforts with talk of making our homes in Him and then shocks by talking about being cleansed or pruned (the Greek word is quite interchangeable). Jesus talks about unfruitful branches being removed and destroyed, and even fruitful branches being pruned of their unfruitful growth so as to enable them to grow more fruit.
The great key to fruitfulness and to the most satisfying and God-pleasing kind of life is to “make your home” in Jesus, or as NRSV puts it “abiding” in Him. None of the works in which we want to build our lives are possible without making our homes in Jesus. We will not be able to provide the delights of shelter, or charm, much less of fruitfulness. Even if we were to work at full pace from the moment we awoke to the moment we crashed into our beds we could achieve nothing of Kingdom benefit if does not arise out of our persistent and committed relating with Jesus; living on His every word and inspiration. If only this was a reference to the development of Christlike character, otherwise known as the fruit of the Spirit, it would be worth loss of everything else in our lives to find ourselves sharing the life and character of Jesus wherever we popped up in the world, whatever it was we were doing.
Those who refuse fellowship with Jesus, which is God’s design for human fulfillment, are refusing the most abundant life for themselves and for those near to them; it is a sign that we have yet to appreciate how essential Jesus is to every and any thing we attempt, or wish to attempt, in response to God’s goodness to us, and to the aching need we see around us. Making our home in Him is even necessary for the change we so ache to see in our own lives.
When we succeed we point to Jesus, when people are blest or changed by our input we say praise Jesus, when we stumble and fall we run home to Jesus to be put right again and re-enter life.
All you could ever need is to found in this mutual indwelling – us in Jesus and He in us. All godliness, ability and talent; all grace and insight; all courage and enterprise in His service; all signs and wonders; all you could ever need for Jesus’ service, for Kingdom service, is produced in a life that has given and continues to give priority to finding our heart’s home in the One who loved us enough to die for us, who continually reaches for our return and recovery in His life-giving and transforming presence. The amazing thing is that when we get more practised at deliberately making our homes in Him, it seems like He’s everywhere we are, available from day to day, hour by hour, inspiring, directing, encouraging, and therefore the more confident we become in His ways, and doing the things He showed us to do (even we’ve invented theologies that say He doesn’t do that anymore).
The fruitfulness test is when you ask of something you feel lead to do, how will this add to God’s Kingdom. What does this grow for God? How does this spread His fame in my community? The question in not whether I feel safe, or whether I or we can afford to do this, or even if it would change our church beyond recognition – the question is does this arise of my home in Jesus, and does it bring any fruit in my life or of those among whom He’s placed me.