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Raised in the heart of the Finger Lakes, the beauty of this region's landscape never ceases to impress. Nestled among the picturesque lakes, fields, rolling hills, caverns and waterfalls are the vineyards and wineries that the area has become so well known for.
Regardless of the time of year, a drive between the lakes will reveal that there is always work to be done at a vineyard. Owning a vineyard is physically, financially and emotionally challenging. Long days leave workers dirty, sticky, sore and tired. Grapes are susceptible to a vast number of pestilences, and in the Finger Lakes, the short growing season and harsh winters test the resilience of both plants and vineyard owners. Owning a vineyard requires a steadfast passion and is not for the faint of heart.
This piece is called "The Vintner: and is inspired by the following verse:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."
John 15: 1-4
The earliest known depiction of a vineyard illustrates the "stomping of the grapes" and is found within hieroglyphics on an ancient Egyptian wall. The Babylonians inherited grape growing and wine making from the Egyptians and passed it on to the Greeks, who later passed it on to the Romans. During bible times, growing vineyards in Eastern lands was one of the most costly and hard to maintain of all agricultural choices. Fences were needed to protect against hungry predators and guards were required to prevent thieves from stealing the precious crop. Like modern wineries, the vineyards of the biblical era required expensive tools. Winepresses and vats had to be on-location as transporting the grapes could bruise them and render the fruit useless.
Simply put, a vintner is a winemaker, but this individual is also usually the owner of the vineyard, and as a result, involved in the entire process of wine production. The term vinedresser refers to the individual who ties the grapevines to their supports to keep them off the ground. In biblical times, and even on smaller vineyards today, the vintner and vinedresser was typically the same individual.
A vintner is involved with the winemaking process from the selection and planting the vines, and harvesting the grapes, through the blending and bottling of the finished product. They are responsible for the methods and techniques used during the crushing of the grapes, the pressing, the settling, the treating of the juice, and the fermentation and the aging of the wine.
Vintners must have a superb sense of taste and smell to detect every nuance in the wine, however they can act on instinct and experience. The vintner may add additional flavors and spices to the wine. A vintner knows every trick to make wines a certain standard regardless of how good the grapes were initially.
Grapes are more than just an annual crop. Vines remain with a vintner for decades. A good vintner knows each vine in a personal way. He knows how the vine is faring from year to year, and which vines are more productive than others. The vintner understands and responds to the special needs of his grape varieties. A vintner cares for each vine and nurtures it. He prunes each vine at the appropriate times with the utmost precision and care. He knows when to fertilize them, when to lift their branches from the ground and anchor them to a support, and when to take measures to protect them from pests and diseases. Considering the meticulous care a vineyard requires, a vintner's job is clearly a labor of love.
In the context of this verse, when Jesus calls His Father the Vinedresser, He is describing Him in terms of His relationship, attitude and actions in the lives of those who choose to follow Him. Just as there are multiple roles assumed by the one who owns and cares for the vines on a vineyard, God is not just the vinedresser, but also the Master Vintner. This passage describes how God cares for us personally and is infinitely wise to know exactly what is needed in our lives for us to be both fruitful and fulfilled.
God wants to be hands on in our lives. The vintner cannot care for his vineyard from a distance. God protects and cares for us. If a branch does not bear fruit, a vintner cuts it from the vine so that it does not drain the life from fruitful branches. A dead branch in our lives can be anything that is not productive and/or does not glorify God. Anger, bitterness, poor relationships are a few examples. Like a vintner, God lovingly removes the things in our lives that hinder us from growth and the ability to live life abundantly. Oh how we can clasp to those dead branches and play tug of war with God!
The vintner doesn't prune a branch simply because it is not fruitful. He would not have a good vineyard if he only pruned the dead branches. At times, what appears to be a dead branch actually has the potential for re-growth if it is pruned carefully. A vintner must also prune the fruitful branches so that they become even more productive. Sometimes God prunes the areas of our lives that are bearing fruit because he wants us to grow abundantly. Through pruning the Father is glorified.
Admittedly, when God is pruning us we wonder if He knows what He�s doing. How can he allow so many trials at the same time? During the pruning process we can feel desolate and unable to see His purpose- this is when we need to trust the Vintner. God doesn't prune us to make us miserable or to break us. He prunes us because He loves us and wants our joy to be full and complete. God is deeply interested in our lives and knows us intimately. Only He has the power to judge each branch.
The vintner provides for the branches that are heavy laden with fruit by attaching them to an anchor. This keeps the vine from becoming unkempt and tangled. This anchor is sure, firm and stronger than any anchor the branch could have provided for itself. We are never alone. Our heavenly Father gives us a strong straight support on which to lean- the Holy Spirit and His Word. The fruit of a Christian is not a result of our own power or energy, but the care of the Vintner.
Despite the Vintner's meticulous care, the branches must have their unity in the Vine- Jesus Christ- to survive. Our entire spiritual life must be centered on abiding in Christ. Apart from the vine, the branches have no life. The Vine and the Vintner are in perfect harmony. Their will is the same, their purpose is the same, and their desire for the branches is the same.
In this passage, Jesus uses a definite article to describe Himself- He says "I am the vine", not "I am a vine." Christ has a specific image in mind - He is the "true vine" in contrast to something in scripture that His audience might consider the true vine. In the Old Testament, the imagery of a grapevine is used to describe Israel's relationship to God and His care for the nation despite their failure to honor Him. Jesus' use of the term "true vine" alludes to His intercession for God's people. Where we have failed, Jesus has succeeded. He is the complete embodiment of all that we are supposed to be. Jesus does the perfect will of the Father, and today, because of His sacrifice, we can all be children of God. As believers, we are grafted to the Vine!
The emphasis of this passage is not on the sins and failures of Israel, but it is on the fruitfulness of Christ's disciples. The focus is on the relationship that believers have with the Father and the resulting fruitfulness it yields. These are words of hope and encouragement!
We are instructed to count it joy when we are being pruned because it will fortify our faith, teach us patience, and enable us to be perfect and complete in Christ- lacking nothing! If God is using His pruning shears in your life, you may be questioning why He is doing it. Perhaps you feel as though you are being pressed rather than pruned. I know it can be a painful process, but trust the Vintner. Perhaps He is adding an important spice or flavor- an element that under the right conditions will make you bold, refined, and robust. We may not understand why God allows trials in our lives, but we are promised they have a significant purpose. In this we can rejoice. When winter passes and spring comes again you will be renewed, vibrant, and complete. You will lack nothing! Oh how God must love us! Christ did not compare us to a corn or wheat crop, but to a vineyard that requires so much devotion and care.
March 15th, 2013
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