A few weeks ago, Pastor John brought us a great sermon about how as a Good Church, we need to stay connected to God. You will remember that one of the passages he referenced was John 15 ESV. This is one of my favorite passages, mostly because I am acutely reminded of it around this time of year. As some of you might know, I have several Concord grape vines in my backyard. We inherited these vines when we moved into our house in 2005. Before then I had barely seen a grapevine, let alone took care of one. Well, other than that one time when I was a kid in the mid-eighties. Homemade grapevine wreaths were all the rage and my mom needed supplies that she and I gathered from the side of the road in Mansfield!

That first year after we moved in, I had no idea what to do with these vines. It took several years to figure out how to take care of them. At first, they were overgrown and unruly! They needed to be stabilized and pruned. But I soon found out that they didn’t like to be pruned too much. As the “vinedresser”, I needed to get to know what my vines needed to best produce a crop. This time of year, the end of winter, is the optimal pruning season. And a few weeks ago, I did just that! Pruning is best done when the vines are rested and dormant, and just before they are ready to redistribute all those nutrients from deep in the ground into growth. Hopefully that growth will be grapes! It took me many years to understand which branches needed to be cut off because they were essentially dead, which branches were healthy, but way too long, and which branches were insisting on growing in the wrong direction…. like directly into my neighbor’s flowerbed. It took me years to figure these things out. But our God and creator knows exactly what needs to be done so those of us who are connected to Him can produce the best results.

As we explored together over the last few weeks, we as individual branches are not expected to produce a crop on our own. If I were to cut all the branches except one from my vines, I certainly would not get many grapes, if any grapes at all! God’s great creation and design was not for one branch to grow and produce alone, it was for a vineyard!

Like the branches (us) need to be connected to the vine (Jesus), we also need to be connected to each other. My grapevines don’t just have individual branches popping out from the main vine. There is the main vine, then there are branches – that grow branches – that grow branches, that stretch out across the arbor. In the past when I cut almost all the branches back to the vine, the only thing that grew were new branches. I had several years where there were no grapes because there weren’t enough healthy branches to produce them. The branches need branches connected to branches to produce.

Much like the grapes, branches and vines, God created each human with the need for connection. After Adam and Eve, there has never been a human brought into this world without connection. A baby is literally connected to the mother to sustain life during pregnancy. But the need for connection does not end after birth. I think any parent would attest to the validity of this; modern psychology has homed in on the vital importance of bonding and physical attachment in babies and children. An attachment disruption can potentially have emotional and behavioral implications in a person’s life for years. (This, of course, is a nuanced and complex concept. If you’d like to explore a little deeper into attachment and our relationship to God, this article is a good place to start. Attachment Theory and Your Relationship With God)

Though created for connection to God and to one another, our sin nature can deceive us into thinking that isolating ourselves isn’t a problem. Much like the example last week where Satan tempted Eve with the prospect of being like God, understanding the knowledge of good and evil, our sin natures can convince us that we know best. When we think we know best, we can be deceived into thinking that others don’t. This can be the onset of disconnection. Hebrews 3:12-13 tells us, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” It has been baked into the human condition for sin to seep in and entice us to fall away. But because we are designed for connection, we are called to support and encourage one another DAILY to realign our understating and perspective.

The more we get to know God through His Word, the more we realize how much we don’t know. But if we isolate ourselves and disconnect from others who can hold us accountable and challenge us in our understanding, we can be deceived into thinking that what we know is enough. We will become dull and useless. We need each other. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another”.

In Pastor John’s sermon on Connection he concluded by saying, “To connect in Christ is to love God enough that it spills out into love for one another”. Let’s stay connected to God and connected to one another so that the love that spills over will inspire not only us, but those in our community; to change perceptions and influence the culture around us that so desperately needs the love of God, even if they don’t know it.