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In John’s Gospel chapter 15, Jesus says, “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.”

One of the incredibly powerful lies of modern society is that we are isolated individuals. I’ve put that in a deliberately provocative way, to get you thinking. What I mean of course, is that there is a belief in our society, that we can exist as individuals in isolation from everyone else. I challenge you to notice it in advertising, for example, “Because you’re worth it” (Loreal) or “It’s about you” (Nike and Lance Armstrong from a few years ago).

It’s all false, because we don’t exist as individuals. I mean, we literally don’t exist as individuals: our bodies, for a start, are an incredibly complex web of organisms and life. Red blood cells, which take oxygen to our muscles, are complemented by and work alongside white blood cells, which fight infection. What’s even more fascinating is that there are good bacteria, which live inside us, and plays an important role in digestion and all sorts of other things. Mrs McCall has now convinced me to put natural yoghurt on my cereal, because it contains pro-biotics: basically good bacteria, which encourage the health of one’s digestive system.

Then there is the simple truth that we don’t actually exist by ourselves anyway. We live in communities. We live with other people and in nature and with all sorts of other creatures all around us. Some of them are friendly (our pets). Some of them are not so friendly (foxes living in suburban Adelaide, for example) but we don’t live in isolation.

So, when we try and cut ourselves off from God or from other people, when we try and live as isolated individuals, it actually doesn’t work very well; it has disastrous consequences.

The teaching from Jesus, “I am the vine, you are the branches” is this idea that we can’t actually live complete lives apart from God. It’s part of his teaching at the Last Supper. It’s amongst the last things Jesus said to the disciples. This is the really important teaching. We know it’s important, not just because it occurs at the Last Supper, Jesus’ last chance to teach his disciples before his crucifixion, but also because John thought it was important enough to write down and include in his Gospel. Just think about that for a moment: Jesus’ earthly ministry in ancient Palestine lasted about 3 years. He must have said a lot over that time – we almost certainly don’t have everything he said, which means that the bits we do have were considered by his disciples important to record. This idea of being part of the vine, meaning connected to Jesus, connected to God, was considered really important by John.

Let me finish with a statement of hope, about what is actually possible, if we truly accept that we are all connected. In 1993 the then President of the United States, Bill Clinton, orchestrated the signing of Oslo Peace Accords, a commitment to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, and the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, signed on behalf of their respective people. The peace accords were agreed at a secret meeting in Oslo, Norway, before being officially signed in Washington DC at the White House. The agreement was for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

Our prayer should be a recognition of what is possible and to pray for that. We should be praying for peace between all people, because we are all part of the vine; we are all connected. This is my prayer for us as individuals and for our world.

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain