It's been over a year since I finished working on The Word of Glory, my adaptation of the Gospel of John into narrative poetry. My process of figuring out what to do with it has stalled out a bit, especially now that I've got a new and much more consuming sub-creative project (being a Dad). Rather than just sit on it, I thought I'd start sharing some excerpts of the poem, along with a few brief reflections.
But, if you dwell on me, your Vine,
The best of wine you’re able to
Make, for your fruit abounds; it’s those
Apart from Water flowing through
The Vine whose fruit will never shine,
Branches that in my Life don’t dwell;
They’re thrown outside and wither ‘til,
Gathered, they’re burned, to fire swell;
But, if you dwell in me and in
Your heart my Words, writ as on stone,
If you are rooted, ask your will –
I’ll give you Light until it’s grown;
In this my Father’s Glory shines:
Me giving Light and growing you
To truly be my students, whom
My Life and Light are flowing through;
So look at all the love for me
My Father’s shown, and know that I
Have love as bright for you, and dwell
Upon my Love and be alive!
-John 15:7-10 (WoG)
Reflections on the Passage & Poem
The biblical passage I've adapted above (cf. the ESV) is a favorite of mine. I memorized it while I was still a fairly young Christian, and yet even now I find myself continuing to discover new layers in what Jesus is saying and in levels at which it speaks to me. Where am I seeking to find life? Am I producing fruit as a result of my relationship with Jesus? And what do I even consider to be a truly fruitful life to begin with? - these are just a few of the questions I find myself pondering each time I get to meditate on Jesus' words.
Over the course of the Gospel of John, Jesus makes several important "I am" statements. Some of these statements are absolute and have no predication: Jesus just says "I am," in order to identify himself with Yahweh (e.g. John 8:58; cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4, etc.). Today's passage is the other kind of "I am" statement: instead of asserting his absolute existence, Jesus is describing some of his characteristics. In particular, Jesus uses the metaphor of a vine to describe his vital role in enabling the disciples to produce "fruit."
Based on the flow of what Jesus says, as well as the larger context of John's Gospel, my adaptation interprets "fruit" as a metaphor describing the love we are meant to show, especially toward our friends. Just like Jesus uses a variety of metaphors to describe his identity (not just Vine but also Light, Pathway, and Shepherd), the love that his disciples are called to show is also described using a variety of metaphors (not just producing fruit, but also walking in the light, keeping to the path, and feeding the sheep). Because of their overlapping significance, John is not averse to mixing his metaphors, a tendency that I've dialed up to 11 in this section (and elsewhere in The Word of Glory), by conflating the metaphors of fruit and light.