Worship, Music, and Spirituality: I Am the True Vine
I am the vine; you are the branches
“Don’t tear down an entire branch for one perfect fruit.” This is advice from my father, who, in his youth, often did just that for the perfect mango, killing the branch for one fruit. Perhaps this is why I resist the description of us, followers of Christ, as branches. I don’t like thinking of our ministry and our discipleship as vulnerable, precarious, disposable branches that may need to be pruned when failing. I also don’t like the reminder that we are not autonomous, that our health affects the health of the entire vine and sometimes we may need to be trimmed or pruned for the sake of the whole.
It is a scary thought. What are the markers of success? What are the signs that we are failing to thrive? Many people try to tell (or sell) us different definitions of success, ultimately measured in numbers (people in pews, children in Sunday school, community members reached), even though we often use another language. The gospel message is very clear: our fruitfulness is dependent on our ability to love ourselves and one another as Christ has loved us. When we as a church fail to love, we fail to be the church.
And love, as the Bible teaches us, is primarily an action. “Love is as love does,” as M. Scott Peck once said. Love is the actions that we share to help each other thrive. Love doesn’t hurt. Love doesn’t abuse. Love doesn’t exploit. Love doesn’t bully. Love doesn’t take what it wants at the expense of others. Love doesn’t sacrifice an entire branch for one fruit. Love is always respectful. Love cares for the whole.As a church, and as communities of faith, the greatest marker of our fruitfulness is how we model, teach, and practise what love is, what love does, and what love can (will) do. Our greatest success will always be known by who calls us a friend. As worship leaders, it’s our privilege to model (or attempt to model) the beloved community in our actions, teach the radically loving ways of our faith through our work, and practise the ways of love in our rituals. For the sake of our shared ministry, our worship needs to communicate Christ’s love and extend Christ’s ministry and friendship into our exceedingly lonely and loveless world.
Fellow worship leaders, thank you for taking on this critical responsibility to love.
Alydia Smith, Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality