Sunday Week 5 of Easter Year B

“Remain in me or wither.”
Runner number 19933 in today’s Bay To Breakers says that this morning’s gospel gives incontrovertible evidence that Jesus knew all along that he was God. Why? How? Well Jesus says, “I am de vine…” Groan …
Runner 19933 lives in my house and is prone to bad jokes. Luckily for us all, running naked isn’t one of them. But if he were he could have turned to the Chronicle for its essential advice to unclad athletes—exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate! This helpful clipping also recommends where to buy your artificial tan, your fake tattoos, and your body paint.
“Abide with me.”
“It just caught my eye,” said the lady who’s just paid $12,500 (or was it 125,000?) to have a teaspoon of her eventual ashes space-rocketed to the moon. All the thrill of space-travel without the preparation. No training required … you just have to have the cash … and be dead. You get to rest forever in utter, exclusive, dusty silence.
“God is greater than our hearts.”
Harris County, Texas, is concerned about the recent overturning of several established rape convictions as a result of DNA testing. How many more wrongfully convicted men are incarcerated? How many more rapists have got away with this horrible crime? That’s not Harris County’s worry. They are going through their warehouses destroying old evidence to save themselves the effort and embarrassment of being caught out locking up the wrong people.
“I am the true vine.”
Scientists who have recently introduced firefly genes into mustard plants have observed that they glow in the dark shortly after being handled gently. Plants, it seems, like being touched. It helps them grow up healthy and not turn out stunted or leggy. The next step they say is to use jellyfish genes so they glow will be brighter.
“If you remain in me you will bear much fruit.”
Apparently, Senator Jessie Helms is on record as describing humanitarian aid to struggling nations as “throwing money down a rat hole.” The annual US donation to Africa, for example, amounts to something like $1.25 per African head.
OK! Forgive me for rambling …The way we show ourselves to the world isn’t everything. But the choices we make do say a whole load about us. And none more than where we choose to stay. Americans have always been a mobile lot. So many of us are immigrants anyway. Resting here after long journeys, whether made in haste or carefully chosen, so we move and move on looking for the right place to settle down, to put down roots.
Roots are ambiguous though. Tearing them up hurts like hell. But let them be shallow and we wither. We need the sap that seeps up through our roots and nourishes heart and soul but who knows what else rises from the soil we are planted in to colour our lives or taint our fruit.
In the past it was only the absurdly rich and powerful who had the choice to shun the soil. The rest of us knew it daily, smeared on the brow or grubby under the fingernails. But these days we can all afford to float a little above the ground. Never touching soil. Buying washed, peeled, and portioned food. Touching our neighbours only when we choose. And finally going to our eternal rest, not under earth, but in the sterile dust of the sky.
But God is a gardener. And a careful one. Knows the value of dirt. Lets nothing go to waste. Achieves with touch and time and tenderness what chemicals and gene-splicing can only imitate. That touch makes us grow. Makes us glow. Not without the pruning shears and not without sometimes being up to our shoulders in …manure.
Who are we? Our DNA is ambiguous as our roots. We share just about 99.9% of it with every other human being. Heck! We share 98% of it with chimpanzees, over half of it with fireflies. But it can single us out as guilty. Or innocent. No matter how much we protest it wasn’t us. No matter how much we fear it was. But God is greater than our fear, greater than whatever condemns us. Greater than the embarrassment we feel at standing alongside the politicians, sharing their genes, knowing we grow in similar soil and would make their compromises our own if we had to.
We are in this together. Not mustard plants in separate pots of sterile growing medium. But branches of one big messy vine rooted in dirt, assailed by pests, yet tended by God, a gardener with a difference. This one shares our DNA, this one knows from the inside all about vines, what it is to grow and wither, what it is to feel the knife, what it is to scent the new rain.
God alone knows how to be human. But given time God can even make us human too.