all together now

All Together Now, John 15:1-8
(video below)

I enjoy singing.  There is something enriching, some might say therapeutic, about joining your voice with the voices of other people.  Singing provides a common connection to a common humanity, a common way of remembering.  Even when you sing softly, singing lets you know that you are not alone.

Whether you are singing by yourself or joining your voice with other voices, singing provides a connection to God.  Whether you are singing by yourself or joining your voice with other voices, such as a church choir, singing interprets the present moment while transporting you beyond the present moment.  Singing has the power to help all voices excel together.

In a choir, the objective is to join voices together so that all voices of the choir may excel together.  In order for this to happen, a director is needed who can help voices blend together as the director helps different sections of the choir to know how their parts of the song should be sung, when they should sing their part, and how soft, or loud, they should sing their part.  The choir director, like the conductor of an orchestra, helps to assure that everyone is singing at the same tempo, or speed, helps everyone to be in agreement about how best to interpret and sing an anthem as they excel together.  Often the director will offer words of encouragement and direction by saying “all together now.”

As I read today’s scripture from the Gospel of John, I was struck by how Jesus was directing his disciples to be “all together now”.

To fully understand what Jesus is saying in this scripture, you need to understand that these verses are part of what is called “Jesus’ Farewell Speech” that begins with John 13:31 and concludes with John 17:26.  There are two sections to Jesus’ farewell speech.  The first section (John 13:36-14:31) focuses generally on Jesus’ departure from the world.  The second section (John 15:1 – 17:26) focuses specifically on what the requirements are to be a follower of Jesus following his departure.  In today’s scripture reading the first requirement of being a follower of Jesus is to abide in Jesus:

  • Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear much fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. (15:4)
  • I am the vine. You are the branches.  Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (15:5)
  • If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (15:7)

These verses imply that Jesus’ disciples should abide or continue to remain faithful to what he has taught them even though he will not be physically present with them.  They are to remain and take residence in the directions of his teachings so they may bear the fruit of his teachings through their lives. It is interesting to note that the Greek word for ‘abide’ in these verses of John is meno.  S. Edgar, in The Greek Geek, writes about Jesus’ directions to meno or abide in him:

John tells us that if we let the Gospel that we have heard live in us, if we give it our attention, if we allow it to have our energy, then we will live in Christ. We will endure, we will wait unchanged, we will be one with Him, showing His love to our brothers and sisters.

In this section of Jesus’ farewell speech in John’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching that when we meno, abide, in him we allow our faith to take up residence in his teachings.  When we meno, abide, take up residence, in him, we will follow him in the path that is leading to his departure through the cross.  When we meno, abide, reside, in Jesus, we will do what John 15:8 states.  We will glorify God by producing much fruit and proving that we are Jesus’ disciples.

In music, there is a term called meno, short for meno mosso that directs the singer, or the person playing a piece of music to play less rapidly or less softly.  It is a direction to abide in the moment of the song, a direction that instructs persons playing or singing to be all together now as they prepare for the next part of the song.

This is what Jesus taught his disciples as he directed them in the second section of his farewell speech.  He wanted them to be all together now as they abided in him in the path that was leading to the cross.  By abiding in Jesus, they would be connected to their Savior like branches to a vine.  By abiding in Jesus, they would excel in glorifying God together as they faithfully remembered Jesus’ directions.

In his article, “Telling the Holy,” Scott Russell Sanders discusses his research and reading into “efforts to re-establish bighorn sheep in the mountain and desert regions of the American West.  Time and again, a good-sized herd has been released into an area where bighorns once flourished, but then, year by year, their numbers dwindle away.  The problem, it turned out, was that the sheep do not know how to move between their summer range and their winter range, and so they starve.  Biologists can put the sheep in an ideal habitat, can rig them with radio collars, can inoculate them against disease, but cannot teach them the migration routes that bighorns learn only from other bighorns.  Once the link between sheep and ground is broken, and the memory of the trails is lost, there seems to be no way of restoring it.”  (8-9, Parabola. May 18, 1993, “Telling the Holy”, Sanders)

Jesus taught that we should abide in him so we would not forget the path that he followed to the cross.  As he instructs us to abide in him and with each other, Jesus wants us to faithfully remember that we are all together now.

May 2, 2021

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