Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter – the Vine and Co-op Live.

”Abide in me as I abide in you…. I am the vine, you are the branches.” 

Jesus in John 15:1-8.

Peter Kay ”is hoping to eventually perform at Europe’s biggest new arena*”….“*if they actually open the place”. His media post after problems with the Co-op Live Arena. 

The image of the vine is the last of the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus and was shared with his followers at the Last Supper after Judas had left to betray him. This happened in the Gospel according to John, after Jesus had said that he would be leaving them (14:2) and the image of the vine tended by the vinedresser is a fruitful image for the bewildered disciples to cling on to like its tendrils. 

Vine dressing involves very much more than just pruning it. Left untended, vines can put on so much growth that the leaves and woody stems become prolific and the sap is taken up by them rather than producing grapes. They will also run along the ground and become covered in dirt and weeds, whereas the vinedresser will prune them to ensure the fruitfulness of the vine and then raise them up and train the stems so that they will be healthy and produce a good crop. The image of the vine, the vinedresser and the sap is powerfully Trinitarian but Jesus also tells his followers that they are the branches producing the fruit – and pruning is necessary to grow the best grapes so that what remains will become more fruitful.

The key to this is the word ‘abide’, which Jesus uses 11 times in this reading – those branches which abide and remain in the vine will produce a better yield. That stems from the care and skill of the vinedresser as well as the quality of the vine and good pruning and, when the difficulties and challenges of life are encountered, it’s sometimes tempting to think that they are preventing our growth rather than enabling it later on. The continuing cost of living crisis means that cutting back costs and resources can be counter-productive – but can also enable us to cling on to what we have, be thankful for it and use it well.

In the news this week has been the Co-op Live arena in Manchester, where its chief executive has not been able to abide the criticism of its organisation and has been cut off from further involvement with it. At a test run, escalators weren’t working, toilet rolls and hand-driers had not been installed and various safety features had not been completed. That’s perhaps not surprising in a venue that will seat over 20,000 people and contain 32 bars, lounges and restaurants but, after 22 people were killed and over 500 injured by terrorism at a concert in the Manchester Arena in 2017, safety must come first. The regulations are very complicated but the fruits of the builders’ labours as skills dovetail and the venue is readied will be clear to see when the time is right, whatever the calendar dictates. 

The same is so for the vine, the harvest of which is also dependent on other factors such as the weather and location – perseverance and co-operation are key to abiding in the hope of eventually being fruitful, whether for buildings or vineyards. Would Peter Kay agree?!

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.