The goal is not to bear fruit

For many of us Christians, we talk about the true disciple is one that bears fruit. The Church talks about different ministries being fruitful and many churches count different things as a way to talk about how much fruit something bears. In the past I have written about the need to grow fruit and not veggies, how drought leads to high quality fruit and even the needed shift from being fruitful focused to being faithful focused

Today I want to share a story from my friend, Reid, when he went to his grandmothers house.

Reid's grandmother has at least one apple tree in her backyard. This tree is beginning to have a lot of fruit. So much so in fact that the branches are being held up by posts for support. Reid and his grandmother were shook from their seat when one of the fruit laden branches snapped and fell to the ground. Reid shared that it is a shame that the branch snapped off because it had a lot of fruit on it, but the fruit was too immature to pick and eat. That branch and all the buds on it were going to rot and end up as firewood. 

In many circles and conversations I have participated in, there is an emphasis on bearing fruit. As such churches are measured by how much fruit they produce - members, dollars, building size, average worship attendance, etc. With all this talk about bearing fruit we might forget that the goal of the Christian life is not to bear fruit.

The goal is be connected to the True Vine.

When we talk about the Christian life we are tempted to talk about the fruit, when we really should be talking about the connection we have with the Vine. Don't tell me how many people you have in worship, tell me how you see people connecting with God in worship. Rather than how many dollars you give, share how much grace you have received. I am not interested in hearing how many times you have read the Bible as I am hearing about how many times you have allowed the Bible to read you. So you have a ton of 'likes' or 'followers' but when was the last time you were humbled by your own smallness?

We are not called to bear fruit, we are called to connect to the vine. If we focus on fruitfulness without contentedness then we may be like a branch that is full of apples only to break off and (ironically) not be fruitful.

Animal From the Muppets and Jesus

One of the greatest drummers of all time is Animal from the Muppets. Animal also happens to be one of my favorite Muppets because he reminds me of my one of my favorite stories of Jesus. 

In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus encountered a man who is bound in chains and in just plain crazy to the point of self mutilation and community isolation. He is demon possessed and has become very strong to the point that no one could subdue him. He shouts and lives among the rocks and caves. He is scary and thought to be untouchable. 

For reasons that Mark make in the entire Gospel, Jesus is able to overcome this crazy chained man's demons and upon the healing the man returns to a state of affairs. We can imagine that the scars this man walks with the rest of his life are very visible and sometimes you have to wonder if he ever was affected by the residue of the demons.

Animal from the Muppets is a very primal being. And while no longer chained to the wall (see the pilot episode of the Muppets) he still has the chain around his neck. Animal is affected by the residues of his experiences and, from time to time, goes crazy. The one thing that brings him back to self is to play the drums. 

When Animal is playing harmony of the Song he is no longer affected by the chains of his past. Sure they are still there, but they do not control him when he is in the Song. 

For all the things Jesus is, (Bread, Living Water, Resurrection, Light, etc.) perhaps Jesus missed an opportunity to teach that he is the Song of the universe.

So if we are like Animal, let us find our place in Dr. Teeth's band and play along with the Song.

Cacophony to Symphony

For the past few weeks I have been reading with a small group of men at the church A Man's Field Guide to Prayer: Discovering and Developing This Ancient Practice by Rev. Dr. Steven Bell.

Many imagine God more like a characterture than what Christianity has understood. God becomes like that of an unseen man in the clouds who interacts with creation in a like an abusive parent who says they love you one moment but then will wipe out creation with a flood or fire the next. When this is the image of God, then there are a couple of responses to prayer: refuse to pray or pray to change God's mind. 

Many others imagine God less like a crazy parent and more like that of a song that hums throughout creation. When we see God in this way, prayer becomes something different. It is less about changing the song or ignoring the song, and more about learning the tune and how to harmonize with it. 

As Kierkegaard said, "The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather change the nature of the one who prays." When you learn to harmonize our lives with the song of God then it will turn our voices from a cacophony to a symphony.