The green canopy arching over our head in a wood whispers as the leaves lightly brush against each other in the breeze. They seem to only fleetingly connect. In reality, however, the trees of a wood are deeply inter-connected via a root system out of sight, underground. It is exciting to hear the scientists now able to map the ‘wood wide web’, an underground network that links all trees through networks of fungi.
We can understand more about roots and foundations in the light of the wood wide web. I love the ‘I am’ phrases in John’s gospel, as Jesus seeks to share with us something of himself. In John 15, Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine….you are the branches. You cannot do anything apart from me.’ The ‘you’ Jesus is talking about is plural. It is us – we are a network of branches and vines. We should be careful how we think of the word ‘connect’ as it might bring about pictures of branches and leaves occasionally touching, or a child’s construction toy temporarily interlocked for an afternoon of play. But this isn’t what Jesus means. He is talking about us being totally intertwined together.
Roots and foundations cannot be strengthened solely as individuals. It is only together that this can be accomplished. If we, as individuals, are not intertwined with the whole vine, we are disconnecting from the true vine, Jesus, also. They are one and the same. If we are disconnected, we cannot bear fruit. We cannot do anything by ourselves. By ourselves, we fall away and die.
So what, in practice, is the difference between tentative connection and being intertwined? Wholeheartedness. When we find we can’t stand with others with our whole heart in interlocking trust, honour, purpose and love, we need to do something about it. It isn’t enough to put those feelings aside and carry on. They won’t stay buried for long. We may need to ask for help to work it through, and make it a priority.
We wholeheartedly move forward together, intertwined as one with Jesus. We wholeheartedly lay our lives down for each other, serve together and ultimately bear much fruit together