“Death creates an economy that makes life precious. One of the ways of naming that preciousness is friendship.”
Heather and I just returned from a two-week trip to Nashville and back. Along the way we lost luggage, fought colds, ate everything from Kentucky and Tennessee BBQ (I think TN won) to Georgia's best blueberry pie, did loads of laundry, and saw lots and lots of friends (although I am beating Heather in the "Facebook friend" challenge, she in reality has way more friends than me--and I'm OK with that--really!). Even when we were "by ourselves" at the Country Inn and Suites, our friends from Cape Coral were just across the hall (and I'm very OK with that--really!).
Oliver Claassen, a pastor-mentor of mine, once said that ministry flows through relationships. I've found that to be true. My version is that life flows through relationships. (I don't think Oliver would mind my edit.) Think about it--you would not be alive today if your mom and dad didn't have a relationship--good, bad or indifferent. Despite the dysfunction in your family, it still took two people to produce you.
Jesus showed how life flows through relationships by using a vineyard as an illustration (John 15). Jesus taught that He is the vine and His Father is the vinedresser. We are the branches. If we abide in Him, we will flourish and bear fruit. Apart from Him we will wither and perish. Here are Jesus' own words:
"If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you." (John 15:6-7)
I think that most of us want to ignore the first part (v. 6) and dare not believe the second part (v. 7). The bad news is that because of sin, none of us have stayed. We have all strayed. We are all runaways. We are all toast. The good news is that Jesus stayed with us. He remained. He was obedient even to death--to conquer it and bring new life. Now if we abide with Him, we'll have it. Everything connected to Jesus will be renewed. Real and lasting life flows through a relationship with Jesus.