from p. 145-146 of Len Sweet’s So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church:

“One of Jesus’ most exquisite metaphors for himself was the Vine and the vineyard. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches.’ When Jesus drew on this image of the vineyard and its gardeners, he was drawing on a longstanding biblical image that spoke of relationship: the bonds of cooperation between humans and nature (we do this together or we don’t have a vineyard) and the bonds of love between the lover and the beloved.

A vine exists to grow vintage grapes. But for the fruit of the vine to become a reality, every vineyard has frames that support the vines and enable them to grow the best grapes. Depending on where you find the vineyard, sometimes the frames are made of wire. Sometimes of wood. Sometimes they scaffold the vine horizontally; most often vertically. These frames need continuing maintenance, sometimes even rebuilding. If a frame collapses, it can kill the vine.

However, the purpose of the vineyard is not to grow frames but to grow the grapes that the frames support. When the only thing holding up the church are those frames and not Christ, then little things like fruit, freedom, and mercy are forgotten.

No matter how beautiful the frames, the fruit doesn’t come from the frames but from the vine. The frames can’t slake your thirst. Only the vine. And the purpose of the frames is not to keep the vine from suffering, but to support it in its growth and point it in the right directions. In fact, the more the grapes suffer, the better the wine. It may be that if something cannot be put in a nice framework, you will be reluctant to study it or work with it. But your future is not in the frames; it’s in the fruit. In the words of one of my favorite hymns,

‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.’

No matter how sweet the frame or how beautiful its latticework, there is no nourishment in the frame. Only in the Vine. Only in the fruit. Don’t worship the frame. Don’t let someone look at your life and say, ‘You’ve been framed.’ Only ‘wholly lean on Jesus’ name.'”

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