Fareham Community Church

Month: March 2021

Bearing Fruit

Jesus was a big-time fan of metaphors and imagery. He was able to captivate the attention of the crowds that gathered to hear him speak, by using imagery to paint a deeper picture than words ever could.

In John 15:4 Jesus says;

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

Jesus isn’t just passionately talking about gardening. In fact, Jesus is communicating a foundational statement of faith.

He is reminding us that if we are to grow, survive and bear fruit we need to remain in him. Jesus is talking about the connection we have with him. Connection with Jesus is easier said than done and for many of us we find it hard to work out what connecting with him looks like in our lives.

This is where Jesus’ use of imagery takes us to a deeper level.

Why did Jesus pick a vine? Just like the countless variety of vines, there are countless ways we can connect with Jesus. A vine has numerous branches, that have interesting ways of growing everywhere and anywhere. They show creativity in the way they do that and they can be relentless in their pursuit of light. The very attribute that makes a vine different from any other plant is that it ‘trails’ or ‘clings’. It is a reminder to us that we should exhibit that same tenacity and creativity in connecting or ‘clinging’ to Jesus.

If we removed a branch from the vine what would happen? There is nothing we can do as human beings to make that branch bear fruit. We can prolong that separation, by watering and caring for it but without being reunited with the vine, it will eventually wither away.  The only way that branch will ever be fruitful is when it is grafted back in.

But let’s be honest, however good the image of a vine is sometimes, we can lose that tenacity and eagerness to cling to Jesus. The lack of things to look forward to, ongoing restrictions and lack of human interaction can discourage and cause us to wither within ourselves. This has a real impact on our willingness to respond to this challenge. The solution is found in remaining connected with Jesus (the vine).

There is something we haven’t mentioned, probably the most important part! Jesus says that we should remain in Him, as he remains in us. This is a promise that he does and will remain in us. We can take great courage in this. However, we are feeling, whatever is going on, this is a promise from God that He is with us.

That same tenacity a vine shows in its growth, Jesus shows us in our relationship with Him. He is asking us to cling to him as he clings to us. Let us connect with him and like the variety of vines we see let’s be creative in the way we do that.

Take encouragement from the truth that he is with you. That is a promise!

Martin

14/03/2021

The Blessing

Over the past year, many of us have come to love “The Blessing”.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Recently, Richie sent me this article which gives an insight into its place in our history:

“More than thirty years ago, at a site just south of Jerusalem, archaeologists unearthed two rolled-up pieces of pliable silver, about the size of a credit card. Delicately etched on each plaque were words from this priestly blessing.

These small silver plaques predating 700 BC hold the earliest written citations of Scripture ever found. Perhaps they also bear witness to what must surely have been a primordial longing of our species—the desire for peace.

But what exactly is peace? When most of us think of peace, we think of an absence of conflict or the sense of tranquillity we sometimes feel after a walk in the park or a day at the beach. But the Hebrew word “shalom” is far brawnier than the English word “peace“, encompassing these ideas and more. Shalom contains the idea of completeness. It is the sum of all the blessings God can bestow—healing, prosperity, soundness, well-being, good relationships, perfection. It is what happens when God shines his face on you, when he turns toward you in all his greatness and brings you good.

After the daily sacrifice, the Israelite priests would extend their hands to pray this blessing over the people. As the priests prayed, it became customary for them to leave an opening in their fingers and for the people to cover their heads with their prayer shawls. They did this to express their reverence, believing the cloud of God’s presence was hovering over their heads and its light was streaming through the open fingers of the priests.”

For the Jews, a blessing was not just a wish that things would go well, but “a solemn, deliberate act through which specific and concrete advantages are conveyed“.  The Blessing is not only spoken by a priest.  It is something God himself gives to us in very tangible ways. 

It is easy to gloss over the words when we hear them rather than fully receive God’s truth in our hearts by faith.  But when we give ourselves time to reflect on the words, we recognise the many blessings of God contained in these three simple phrases. God chooses to keep us in His love, acting as our strong defender. His face shines on us with pleasure. His grace is sufficient for us – through Jesus, all our wrongdoing and shortcomings are forgiven when we turn to Him. The “God who sees” looks down at us and pours out His shalom – that complete peace that comes as we wait in His presence.

It’s worth looking at the next verse too; the Voice translation puts it well. “Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.” In the New Testament, we are called God’s holy priesthood, so as we bless others in the name of the Lord, we can be assured that God will look down at them and bless them too. What a privilege to share in God’s work of blessing. 

This week, “may the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”  And may we, as a royal priesthood, pronounce blessing on our families, our friends, our neighbourhoods, our workplaces, and have the joy of seeing what God will do as a result.

Richard

7 March 2021