Sunday, 14 November 2010

Vines & Grapes

A talk for children at the Family Service on Sunday 14 November 2010 in St Mary's, Nenagh. The theme was The Vine.

Children, I’m going to talk to you today about vines, because that is the theme of the service.

Perhaps those of you at the back could come up to the front with the girls choir, because I have something to give you.

The grown-ups can listen in if they want to, or go to sleep, but they should be very good and quiet as mice.

What is this? (hold up a bunch of grapes) - Grapes

What kind of plant do grapes grow on? – Vines

Do you like to eat grapes? – Yes! Well here they are for you to share.

Grapevines are wonderful plants.
Here is a picture of a grapevine.

Grapevines like to grow in countries that are much drier and hotter in summer than Ireland is, so they don’t grow very well here. To get really good sweet grapes in Ireland you have to grow them in a glasshouse. But they grow well in Palestine where Jesus lived, and everyone there then knew as much about vines and grapes as we do about apple trees and apples, because you could find them in every garden.

A vine grows from a big old trunk every year. It has roots that go down a long way to find every drop of water and all the nutrients it can. The water and the nutrients make a rich sap which the trunk pushes up to feed its new growth. In spring and summer the vine grows branches and leaves, and produces flowers which turn into tiny grapes. During the autumn, the tiny grapes swell and ripen until they are the sweet juicy fruit we can buy in the shops. And all the time the vine-grower has to tend it. He has to cut out any branches or twigs that break. And he carefully prunes any branches and twigs that aren’t growing as they should. If he doesn’t tend it properly, the vine won’t produce a big harvest of good fruit.

How are those grapes, by the way? Are they sweet and juicy? Yes! So the vine-grower has done his job well!

In today’s reading (John 15: 1-8), Jesus tells us a story about vines.
Jesus uses the picture of a vine to show us what our relationship should be with him – as his followers – and with God – his and our loving Father.

‘I am the true vine’, he says. Have you noticed these words written in our beautiful stained-glass East window? They are there to remind us of Jesus’s story.

And he goes on to say, ‘my Father is the vine-grower’ - that's God, and ‘you are the branches’ - that's you here, everyone over there, and me too.

If I were a vine branch, I’d want to produce good fruit – and I’m sure you would too. In the same way, we all would like to be the good people that God wants us to be.

That means we must hold tightly to Jesus like branches to a vine trunk. Just as the vine branch needs rich sap from the vine trunk to produce good grapes, so we need the kind of spiritual food which only Jesus can feed us with, to be as good as God wants us to be.

We grow and learn throughout our lives, not just as children, but as grown ups. We learn from our experience. As we live and learn, we must expect God to teach us hard lessons sometimes. God, our loving Father, is like a skilful vine-grower. We must let him prune out any bad bits in us, so that the good bits in us will produce good fruit. That is what learning from experience is all about, and we should rejoice in it.

So, every time that you eat a really juicy grape, and every time that you look at that beautiful stained-glass window, I want you to remember Jesus’s story about the vine:

  • Jesus is the true vine that feeds us

  • You and I are like branches of the vine

  • God, our loving Father, is like a skilful vine-grower

  • If we hold tightly to Jesus and we trust in God, we can and we will produce good fruit to please him - as sweet and juicy as any bunch of grapes!

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