January 5th was "Epiphany Eve," the last day of Christmastide and the night before Epiphany (as a born-and-raised Baptist, this was my first year to ever take note of this). In Good Dirt, Ben and Lacy explain Epiphany is the season in which "we focus on the life of Jesus and how he lived in the Kingdom of God here on earth." So it seemed appropriate that the Scripture for the day was a scene from the upper room—Jesus' final hours teaching his disciples. Gone were the opaque parables and instead, a tender description of how God is intertwined in our lives.
The Vine and the Branches
I've always been moved by the intimate language Jesus uses with his disciples (and by proxy, us) in telling the story of the vine and the branches. He paints a picture of a life weaved with God's Spirit—a life so interconnected with His that it is impossible to separate the two:
- "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you."
- "Remain in me, as I also remain in you."
- “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you."
- "Remain in my love."
- "I no longer call you servants...I have called you friends."
- "You did not choose me, but I chose you."
- "This is my command: Love each other."
We are Jesus' friends. He chose us. He has made us clean. We will bear fruit if we remain in Him—fruit that will last. And above all, Jesus says "love each other."
Translating to Five-Year-Old Speak
So there we were, gathered around the table on Epiphany Eve—Carolyn and I with our eight year old and five year old. I'm lucky to get seven seconds of uninterrupted attention from the boy between pleas for him to finish his dinner. And I don't feel like I can do this passage justice--the intimacy with God, Jesus' final meal before the cross—it's going to be lost on the kids. But then I remember the old Sunday school song:
This is my commandment that you love one another that your joy may be full!
So we sang it together—I jumped on the piano and plunked out a few chords. We sang loud verses, we sang quiet verses. We sang with just the boys, then just the girls. Our son went and grabbed flashlights to use as microphones, then our daughter did an interpretive dance. They had a blast--in fact, they even asked to do it again the next night.
Most importantly, they heard (and remembered) Jesus' main point - "love one another."
May we know God's kingdom here on earth as we love one another—that our joy may be full.