I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener… 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. – John 15:1, 4
On my drive through Sebastopol, the vineyards on both sides of the road are robed in autumn splendor. The slant of the late-fall, morning sun filters through the golden leaves that are still clinging to the vines after the harvest. The morning is crisp, and the blue sky is broken by long, grey fingers of clouds stretched out across the horizon, threatening rain later in the day. I’m compelled to pull off the road, drawn by the sweet beauty of the vineyard after harvest. All the grapes are gone, where just a few weeks ago, the vines were laden with gorgeous Chardonnay grapes. The hard work of the vine is done and the harvest has been gathered in to make the precious wine. The abundant harvest is evidence of a good year, and there has been much celebration!
The rhythms of our work often mirror the rhythms in the vineyard, and harvest is a great example of that. Harvest might happen in a day, but it’s been in the making all year long. Both the vine and the gardener work hard through all the seasons to produce beautiful fruit. There is only one goal: good fruit! In the spring, the gardener ties the vine’s unruly branches to a support system in preparation for the heavy fruit. Meanwhile, the vine uses the last of its reserves from winter to push out tiny leaves and fruit. Then, all summer long, the vine and the branches work together through photosynthesis to make the fruit grow. The gardener exerts great energy to protect the fruit by managing the canopy, the amount of water, and the predators that would destroy the grapes. Finally, the fruit is ready for harvest, and the hum of tractors and the songs of the pickers can be heard day and night. The fruit is transported to the winery, where it will be transformed into wine and become a gift of gladness.
The rhythms of our work often mirror the rhythms in the vineyard, and harvest is a great example of that. Harvest might happen in a day, but it’s been in the making all year long. Both the vine and the gardener work hard through all the seasons to produce beautiful fruit.
If you’ve ever been involved in a big project… raising money for a fund… building a house… painting a canvas… doing an audit… putting on an event… straightening teeth… teaching a year of school… raising a family… you know the rhythm of hard work towards a common goal. Each work product has its own timeline, and—just like the varietals of grapes—will ripen at different rates. Some work cycles are much shorter than others. Cooking dinner is much quicker than doing an audit, and building a house generally doesn’t take as long as raising kids. The stages towards fruitfulness, however, are fairly predictable. Like spring in the vineyard, there is a season of planning and preparation that taps into stored resources. For example, to build a house, you must already have land, financing, and architectural drawings. Once they break ground, the long days of toil and hard work seem to be endless. The general contractor coordinates the plumbers, concrete workers, framers, electricians, cabinet makers, flooring folks, painters, and so on to work hard every day towards one goal: finish the house! Like the summer months in the vineyard, projects tend to have at least one, long season of focused, intense work.
And finally, like harvest, the project is done and the goal is accomplished. Dinner is done… the fund is funded… the house is finished… the kids are launched! There is rejoicing as the gift of what has been produced is presented to the world.
The vineyard gives us such a beautiful picture of what it means to work, to be fruitful. Jesus tells us he is the vine, we are the branches, and his Father is the Gardener. The life-energy that is the Spirit flows through us to create the fruit so desired by the Gardener, who has been carefully tending the vine through the seasons. Did you notice that the vine and the branches work together? The vine cannot produce fruit without branches, nor can the branch produce fruit apart from the vine. The branch is the conduit for the fruit, but it is the life of the vine and the astute, patient care of the Gardener that makes for good fruit. In the end, when good fruit comes in from the vineyard, the branches don’t get praised for being good branches—the Gardener gets the praise!
As we stay united to Christ, the true vine, with the life-force of the Spirit flowing through us, may the fruitfulness of our work bring God, the Gardener, much glory.
Susie Lipps is Fuller’s Bay Area director for Strategic Engagement. She is an entrepreneur, most recently launching Conversations in the Vineyard, which marries two of her passions: leadership and vineyards. Susie loves good coffee, good wine, and the great conversations that inevitably accompany them.