“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Jn 15:5,10
As the year comes to a close, it is a natural time to assess-in all aspects of our lives-what has gone well in the last year and what needs improvement. Our church does just this in our last meetings of the year, assessing our mission, finances, and programs and asking the question of what makes a church successful. Jesus, the head of our church gives his answer in today’s chosen Gospel reading, which in a nutshell-is just the old adage, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.’ Let me illustrate this for you. A young reporter was given his first assignment. Interview the most successful businessman in his city and write about the secret of his success. The young reporter gets right to the point in their interview; “How did you do it,” he asked. “How did you make all your money?” “Well, it’s a great story,” the businessman replied. “When my wife and I got married, we barely had a nickel between us. But I took that nickel, went to the store and bought an apple. I brought it home, shined it up, and sold it for ten cents.” “What did you do then?” the reporter asked. “Well, the next day I took that dime back to the same store. This time I bought two apples, and sold them for twenty cents.” “Oh, I get it,” said the young reporter, “so the next day you bought four apples for a nickel, but sold them for forty cents.” “No, no” the businessman said, “that was my plan…but the next day my father-in-law died and left us a million bucks.”
There is indeed much truth in the saying, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.’ Our businessman was successful not because of his own ingenuity, but because he had the right connections. And though it may come as a surprise, the same principle which makes one successful in business is what makes one ‘successful’ as a Christian; connections. First in being connected to God, the source of all power, truth and love, but also-as importantly-in being connected to one another in God’s Spirit of love. To illustrate the importance of these two connections, Jesus uses a metaphor of vine and fruits. A different metaphor came to my mind this weekend, as I had a look into our boxes of tangled Christmas lights to see what works and what doesn’t. As I plugged in one string after another in the garage outlet, not one of them worked. That’s when it dawned on me that the circuit breaker in the plug had tripped, so there was no power in the outlet! Without connection to the source of power, nothing happens, no light. Jesus says the same. “I am the vine you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing.” The first connection we must have as Christians, and as a church, is to Our Lord. We establish this connection by prayer and knowledge of our faith and Sunday worship; but we must always remember that ‘it’s not what you know but who you know that matters.’ Our prayers, our knowledge, our chant and song in Badarak is all for naught, if it is not all for God.
The second connection that is key to our success as Christians is our connection to each other. Jesus uses the metaphor of being fruitful for this type of connection, and says that our love for each other is the fruit that grows from our being interconnected in Christ. Going back to my two dollar and ninety-nine cent Christmas light illustration, though you are all probably smart enough to plug your lights into a working socket, everyone has had the problem of that one light, somewhere on the string of lights, that is turning off all the others around it! Well that one light is each and every one of us. There are a million ways that we can lose our light and connection with those around us-at work, in our families and in our church. We are as prone to disconnect from God and each other as those ridiculous little green lights. That’s why our Sunday confession and communion is so essential-each and every week- in order to remain connected to one another in love. This love is no warm fuzzy feeling, this is a sacramental commitment, a marriage between God and among his people that we stick to; through thick and thin. In doing so, we learn to let go of pride, anger and envy. We learn to forgive each other and ourselves; so that in confessing our own darkness, we can abide in-and share-God’s light.
So as we look back on this past year, in our personal lives and our common life at St. Hagop, we would do well not to focus first on how much we know or what we did; because ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.’ This has been, and will always be, the secret to our success. My prayer today is that, in all things, we stay plugged in to Jesus Christ-the light of the world-and thereby remain connected to one another in His radiant love, which shines forth from this world unto the next; now and always, amen.