This is a time of year when my thoughts turn to all those wonderful souls that keep me grounded. The blessings of family and friends are precious, undeserved gifts of God who calls us to be ever mindful of one another. These many "connections" are evidence of our community together and serve to remind us of the glue that binds us together. The Gospel of John makes use of some marvelous imagery. "Jesus said to his disciples; I am the true vine and my father is the gardener. He cuts away every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already clean because of what I have said to you. Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me" (John 15:1-5 CEV).
Everyone can name those persons that for one reason or another have been separated from our lives. Sometimes the relationship simply did not work. Other times we were just too similar to allow one another the space we needed to blossom and grow. Whatever the reason that we are no longer engaged in each other's lives is less a matter of our human failures than it is a simple matter of the gardener's gentle hand. At the same time our fruitful relationships go through a constant process of engagement and discernment, of trimming and pruning, all focused on the ultimate goal of growing us into stronger witnesses of God's amazing grace. In short, we were intended to shed and grow, to be open to the possibility of divine guidance at every turn. And the vine is greater than the branches.
I am not adept at "social networking." I have a Facebook page that I visit on occasion, though it is there mostly to receive the newest pictures of grandkids. What an amazing tool it can be. In the past year this tool has reconnected me with several old friends. Forty five years of silence melted away as old high school friends show up on my computer screen. Thirty six years ago I rode across America on a ten speed bicycle. Today, many of the 16 souls who shared that ride are finding each other in new and revealing ways. Connections. We are all connected through the vine that continues to nourish and stretch our imaginings. As we reconnect with one another the thing that stands out is the common bond that kept us connected even when we were unaware of it.
We are in Las Vegas this week, celebrating our son, Kevin, as he is commissioned a second lieutenant in the U. S. Air Force. While here I have reconnected with two old friends. Tim and I delivered newspapers together in the late 1950s when Reno had two deliveries; The Nevada State Journal in the morning and the Reno Evening Gazette in the afternoon. Today, he is retired and very connected with the Baptist Church that has nurtured and grown his family. Dean stood with me when Cathy and I made our vows of marriage. Today, he works with those seeking commercial real estate in an environment that remains challenging and exciting. He too, is strongly connected with his chosen faith community. Though Tim and Dean live far away and lead lives different from ours, there are similarities and connections that transcend the physical and philosophical miles. We are branches of the same vine in Jesus Christ. I hope you might keep your connection to this living vine strong and tenacious. Perhaps it's time to reconnect with that faith community and with the God that nourishes us all.
Pastor Pete Nelson of Carson Valley United Methodist Church is a member of Carson Valley Ministers' Association.