This Covid-19 crisis has probably caused each of us to learn a few new skills. I heard this morning that jigsaw puzzles are in high demand right now, more in demand than even the yearly Christmas rush. I thought about that mid-morning as I did something that, up until last week, I had never done. We have learned the skill of shopping for groceries online rather than going to the store to purchase what we want for the week. (Now I can practically hear some of you laughing right now because in your world this groceries online thing is “a no brainier.” But this is new for us, so please don’t laugh too long!)
I was removing juicy, seedless grapes from the plastic bag, plucking them off the stem, washing them, and then putting them into the refrigerator for easy usage. I confess that a few of them did find their way into my mouth. While doing this I began to reflect upon truths we heard in Eric’s sermon a few weeks ago: John 15:1ff.
The stems of the grape are no longer connected to the ground or to the vine. So despite looking so fresh, these grapes are no longer growing. They will eventually dry up and die if they are left uneaten for a long time. I pondered the thought that this is what happens when we are prayerless and disconnected from our source of life, the Lord Jesus.
Then I noticed that the grapes are always clustered together. They seem to only grow and thrive when they are in clusters. Isn’t this also true of us? Maybe that is why we feel so out of place as we fellowship via Zoom on Sunday mornings. As all the clustered grapes were connected to the vine through the little stems, so we must stay connected individually to our Lord. Like a grape we are all meant to thrive in clusters. Of course the fruit of the vine is useful as a means of blessing people who drink the wine of the grape juice that is produced. Am I fruitful, making a difference?
Then a sobering insight came to me: I would guess that there were 75 to 100 grapes in the bowl when I was finished, and I put them into the refrigerator. But 4 grapes were trashed. They “didn’t make the cut.” They looked like they were already shriveled up and would taste horrible. They clearly needed to be discarded after being plucked off from the stem. Only 4. A small percentage. But this reminded me of Jesus’ statement that some are “taken away” due to being unfruitful. I pondered my own heart. Am I being fruitful? I pondered the many congregations of our day. “What percentage of congregations are totally unfruitful? What percentage of the Grace Reformed congregation would Jesus say are unfruitful and therefore set aside as unusable in His kingdom?”
We clearly connect to God, abide in Him, remain close to him via the word of God and prayer. We probably all know that. But are we really communing with him when we pray? When we read His word? I find it so easy to “do my spiritual disciplines” rather than “spend time with my Heavenly Father.” Such a subtle difference. But it makes all the difference!
During this pandemic season each of us has the potential to grow in grace. We may not be gathered together for fellowship and worship in one place, but we do have the gift of solitude. Joshua 1:8 says we prosper as we meditate on the law of God. Psalm 1 says we are to be like a fruitful tree that bears fruit in season by delighting in the law of the Lord. If you are like me, you have probably had more times of solitude and reflection recently. So here is my gentle advice…don’t waste the gift of extra time alone the Lord has given each of us! Rather, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness!