The Art of Abiding
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. (1 John 4:16b)
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
Abide: to remain stable or fixed in a state of love (found online under a biblical definition of abide)
Greek: “meinate” – abide, remain, tarry, continue
Ever since I was in confirmation and had to memorize the beginning of John 15, the word “abide” has been formative for my faith. An image which comes to my mind as I imagine abiding in the vine, or abiding in God’s love, is of resting in a hammock in the warm, luscious breezes and sunshine of summer days at my grandparent’s house. I would rock gently, watching clouds and birds flying past, listening to the sounds of the frogs and mourning doves, and breathing in the scents of Grandma’s roses on the nearby trellis. I experienced a soul-full, spiritual, abundant revelry in those moments. I was at one (atoned) with life and the universe and the presence of God. Everything was interconnected and interwoven in the assurance that God’s love permeates and infuses the universe.
Of course, life is not all hammocks and sunshine and abundant assurance of love. In Jesus’ story of the vine and branches, not all branches bear good fruit. There are branches which need trimming. Some are burned. Life can be hard and harsh, as we all know – as Jesus knew when he told the disciples this story.
And yet. We have the memories. We have those moments (yours probably isn’t abiding in a summer hammock) when we encounter the divine in our lives. The love of God saturates our hearts and minds and bodies, and we understand what it means to abide in God’s love. These experiences and memories are ones we turn to, which we remember, which re-member us, when we feel overwhelmed, when we cannot seem to get our heads above water, when we cannot breathe because of the circumstance of our lives, because of the empathy and pain we feel for others, because of the distress and divisions of our churches, our communities, and our world.
Yes. Life is hard. Life is not fair. We haven’t figured out yet how to fully love each other. We cause pain. Others cause us pain.
And ever-present, God calls us to abide, to tarry, to remain, and to continue in the tender, tough, tenacious, abiding love of God.
God of love and blessing, we want to abide in you. Help us to remember your abiding love, so we can bear the fruit of your love in Christ in our lives of faith – in our churches, in our communities, and in our world. We pray in the name and Spirit of the vine which sustains and holds us, Jesus our Christ. Amen.