Monday, April 23, 2018

The Fifth Sunday of Easter (B), April 29, 2018 - John 15:1-8; Acts 8:26-40

Jean François Millet, In the Vineyard (1852-53)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

John 15:1-8

Bushels and Bushels

These days, I'm not so much a friend of vines;
I cut and pull them down from where they climb,
Unfruitful as they are, I pile and burn,
Such wild things that destroy, I spurn;
But other plants when pruned yield better fruit,
The grower who increases light, astute.

At Christmastime, my son-in-law went out
And snipped and snipped, with hardly any doubt,
The crowded branches on the nectarine;
While I stood by, he narrated the scene -
"More light in here; take out this crossing guy" -
For what will be is more than meets the eye. 

And so it is with grapes that Jesus knew
The reason in the first place you pursue
Their growing, is to get the biggest yield;
And thus it is, that we are in this field
Because the Grower has as sole pursuit
That all of us together bear much fruit. 

Scott L. Barton

”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 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. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

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Rembrandt: The Baptism of the Eunuch (1626)
  Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht
The Ethiopian Eunuch

The eunuch of the Candace*,
Although the Nubian queen's trustee,
Could not quite trust God's love extends
To one cut off; thus, life would end.
While wond'ring who Isaiah meant
About the one who underwent
Humiliation he, too, knew,
Then, Philip, through the words cut through
To tell how Jesus was good news
To anyone by life so bruised.
The eunuch found himself beguiled,
And baptized, smiled to be love's child.

Scott L. Barton

[Compare the end of verse 33, "For his life is taken away from the earth," with the Hebrew version of Isaiah 53:8c, "For he was cut off from the land of the living."]

*pronounced "KAN-de-si"

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

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