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VINE & BRANCHES

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Norval Presbyterian Church.

Click here for new activities for Vine & Branches 2.


Here for * Overview * Background Notes * Questions for Discussion * Workshops, Vine & Branches, Rotation 1




OVERVIEW

TOPIC/STORY:

Jesus establishes the resonant symbol of the vine and branches.


WORKSHOPS:

Arts 1
, Arts 2, Kitchen, Computer



ACTIVITIES:

True vine twig signs, stained glass t-shirts, raisin scones, computer game.



SOURCE TEXTS:

John 15: 1 - 17. READ THIS.



KEY VERSE:

John 15: 1, 5




I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener... (New International Version) [verse 5] I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit... (New Standard Revised Version).


AFTER STORYTIME IN CHURCH, ALL CHILDREN MEET TOGETHER FOR GATHERING TIME, BRIEF REVIEW, THEN GO TO SCHEDULED WORKSHOPS.

BACKGROUND NOTES & OTHER NEAT INFO

BIBLICAL CONTEXT FOR THIS IMAGE.
Jesus gives the little speech centring on this metaphor to his disciples in the gospel of John. It occurs after Jesus' entry to Jerusalem, in the upper room, before events in the garden of Gethsemene. Footnotes in the NOAB/NRSV refer to this section as "Jesus' farewell discourse."

THE IMPORTANCE OF SYMBOLISM IN JOHN'S GOSPEL.
Right off, we notice that John's account of the life of Christ is just a little different from that of the other gospel writers. Introductory notes to this gospel in the NOAB/NRSV explain it this way:

"[this book] takes pains to acknowledge Jesus as a human being, but as a social being as well when it proclaims, 'The Word became flesh and lived among us' (1.14). Any effort to understand the Fourth Gospel must take this central pronouncement as a major point of interpretive entry...

"In retelling the story of Jesus the author symbolically uses a number of terms drawn from common experience -- bread, water, light, life, word, shepherd, door, way -- to make the significance of Jesus both clear and gripping."

'SPIRITUAL ISRAEL IN INDIVIDUALIZED FORM.'
Count on Canadian writer and scholar Northrop Frye to put it most succinctly. Here's his explanation of what Christ means in the Gospels, as found in his book Biblical and Classical Myths, Chp. 11:

"I was speaking of the relation of the Exodus story in the Old Testament to the shape in which the life of Christ is presented in the Gospels, and was saying that the account of Jesus in the Gospels is not a biography and not conceived as one, but is a setting forth of the life of a person who is the spiritual Israel in an individualized form."

ECHOES OF THE CREATION STORY.
Since the vine and branches speech is embedded in John's gospel, a reader will always hear echoes of the opening verses of John 1 (as suggested in the Intro Notes above). We need to draw a clearer line to the body of established imagery that John plugs himself into. The writer we call John opens with these lines:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God."

Well, you don't have to tell me more than twice. The not-particularly-subtle use of the phrase 'in the beginning' is clearly meant to echo the opening lines of Genesis ("In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.").

And in equating Christ with the word "Word" (several times!), John reminds us that God spoke the world into being ("And God said, "Let there be light." Gen 1.3).

ECHOES OF THE TREE OF LIFE IN THE GARDEN.
Now that we've returned to Genesis, we can see how the vine and branches image clearly belongs to the family of tree images. Here's Frye again on this topic, in the same book as above, this time Chp. 4, Trees and Water:


"Now, remember that metaphorical thinking is not logical thinking. What you are dealing with when you are thinking in metaphors is not a world of solid blocks or obstacles, not a world of nouns that can be kicked around by verbs: it's a world of metaphors, and metaphorical imagery is a world of forces and energies which often modulate into one another.


"And so the tree of life in the garden of Eden before the fall may be thought of as a tree in a garden, or it may be thought of as all the trees in the garden, or it may be thought of as the body of the unfallen Adam himself.


"And the imagery of the divine man, or the man with the divine destiny who is metaphorically identical with the tree of life, runs all through the Bible, and accounts for a very central metaphorical expression. That is the Hebrew word 'Messiah,' of which the Greek equivalent is 'Christ.' And what that word means is 'the anointed one,' the person who has been confirmed as a royal figure by an anointing ceremony which symbolically and metaphorically identifies him with the tree of life. That is, assuming that something like olive oil or a vegetable oil of some kind would be used in the anointing ceremony, because I doubt that they would use petroleum in such an instance."


FAMILY OF GRAPE IMAGES.
Let's turn to Frye again for this, now at Chp. 6, Pastoral and Agricultural Imagery: "the first symbol of Canaan was an enormous bunch of grapes which the spies brought back from the Promised Land [Numbers 13: 23 - 7]. In fact the word 'Canaan' itself means more or less 'the red land,' and its Greek equivalent is phoenicia. It is supposed to have derived its name from another source, the purple dye from the murex shell fish. But the association of redness with the earth and agriculture is fairly consistent throughout the Bible."

FAMILY OF AGRICULTURAL IMAGES.
Frye ties the whole thing up with a nice neat bow at the very beginning of this chapter: "The ambiguity of the symbolism attached to the Messiah is that in each category he is regarded as both master and victim, as the shepherd of the flock and at the same time as the sacrificial lamb. In the same way, his human function is that of a king, but he's a spiritual king, and in the physical world he's only a mock king put to death.

"In the urban phase we saw that the city is identified with the bride, Jerusalem, and the temple that is the house of the god in the middle of the city is identified in the Gospels and in the Book of Revelation with the body of Christ. Jesus says in the Gospels: 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up' [John 2:19]. And the Book of Revelation was insistent that in the New Jerusalem there was no temple because the Body of Christ has replaced it [21:22].

GRAPES AS IMAGE OF COMMUNITY.
In another of his books, Words with Power, Frye brilliantly shows the development of the set of images and symbols that portray community. He does this in the chapter called 'Second Variation: the Garden.' He concludes that various Biblical stories [including Sarah, Hannah, Ruth, Elizabeth and Mary] about women, marriage and "miraculously late births have a dimension in which woman expands into a kind of proletariat, enduring, continuous, exploited humanity, awaiting emancipation in a hostile world: in short, an Israel eventually to be delivered from Egypt (p. 215)."

In fact, by the time a reader gets to the book of Revelation, symbolically "the Bridegroom has any number of brides, male and female, Christ the Bridegroom being the principle of unity or individuality, and the Bride the principle of community" (WWP, p. 224).

ENDURING POETRY.
Let's look at another section of TS Eliot's 'Burnt Norton,' the first movement in the Four Quartets. This poem captures so well the whole idea of archetypal images -- like branches -- that have powerful accumulated meaning. Here's most of the verse 1 from Burnt Norton. See how many images related to vines and branches you can find:


Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.

But to what purpose

Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

I do not know.

Other echoes

Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,

Round the corner. Through the first gate,

Into our first world, shall we follow

The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.

There they were, dignified, invisible,

Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,

In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,

And the bird called, in response to

The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,

And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses

Had the look of flowers that are looked at.

There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.

So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,

Along the empty alley, into the box circle,

To look down into the drained pool.

Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,

And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,

And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,

The surface glittered out of heart of light,

And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.

Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,

Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind

Cannot bear very much reality.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.


Here again is the link to the full text of 'Burnt Norton:' FULL TEXT OF BURNT NORTON .



QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1 Explain in your own words what Jesus meant by his analogy of himself as the true vine and us as the branches?

2. If Jesus is the true vine, does that mean there are false vines, or less authentic vines. What does true vine mean? What would be an example of a false vine?

3. In the vine and branches analogy, Jesus says we can't bear fruit without him. Does that also mean that the vine can't yield fruit without us? Give an example of this if you can.

4. The NRSV says 'Abide' in me. The NIV says 'Remain.' Do these word choices make a difference to you? How would you describe that difference?

5. At verse 15, Jesus tells the disciples he no longer calls them 'servants.' Instead he calls them 'friends.' What do you think he meant by this?

6. Name some other Bible stories or verses that have vines, branches or grapes in them.

7. Name some other stories, poems, songs or movies where the image of a vine, branch or grapevine has special significance.

***************

WORKSHOPS


ARTS WORKSHOP 1

ACTIVITY: MAKE BOARD SIGNS WITH TWIG LETTERS THAT SAY 'TRUE VINE' OR 'YOUR CHURCH'S NAME.'

Here's the link to a set of instructions for twig signs: TWIG SIGN INSTRUCTIONS.


[This project can be done much more simply with simple board, even cardboard painted like wood, twigs and glue. Border of vine with green leaves could be painted on as well. Don't hurt yourself with it!]


For photo of finished twig sign, click here.



IN REAL TIME WITH THE CHILDREN
1. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity. Each week, see how much more detail each group of kids can supply on the story they've been studying.

2. Link or explain your activity to the current story.

3. Sign up!

***************


ARTS WORKSHOP 2

ACTIVITY: MAKE STAINED GLASS T-SHIRTS

MATERIALS:

- plain white t-shirts

- fabric marker, lots of colours, esp purple and green

- few bottles of black puffy fabric paint


INSTRUCTIONS:

* Have the kids design in pencil on paper or on shirts some art for their shirt. Could include grapes logo. Could include words like 'True Vine' or 'Your Church.'

* Fill in colours with ordinary fabric markers.

* Outline edges with black puff paints so outlines will look like the raised edges of a stained glass window.

[**Huge thanks to Holly for this really cool suggestion!**]


***We had done tshirts recently. So we made stained glass banners instead. A casing was stitched (could also be glued) in a 18 inch wide strip of cheap white cotton. Banner poles were branches from a recently trimmed lilac bush. Fabric and puff paints applied as described above. The results were fantastic. For a photo of one of our banners being made, click here.



REAL TIME WITH THE CHILDREN
Ready. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity.

Set. Link or explain your activity to the current story.

Go. Write on!

*******

KITCHEN

ACTIVITY: MAKE RAISIN SCONES (YOU KNOW, GRAPES...DRIED RAISINS...!).

ABOUT SCONES:

This recipe comes from a cookbook called Out of Old Nova Scotia Ktichens. Here's the intro paragraph to the chapter on scones and buns:

In early times bannock and scones were the main source of bread for Scottish settlers. Baked on the 'girdle.' the difference between the two is simply that bannock is a large round cake and scones (pronounced to rhyme with 'on') are formed by cutting the bannock into quarters or 'farls' before baking.


INGREDIENTS:

3 c all purpose flour, 1 tsp cream of tartar. 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 c shortening or lard (or substitute), 1/2 c white sugar, 1 egg beaten, 1/2 c milk, 1/2 c raisins.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut lard in with 2 knives. Add the sugar, beaten egg and milk. Stir in the raisins and mix well. Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into 2 inch rounds or triangles. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

[I'm sure your basic Bisquick recipe could also be substituted! I like these with just butter. But little guys I'm sure would prefer jam.]

REAL TIME WITH THE CHILDREN
Ready. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity.

Set. Link or explain your activity to the current story.

Go. Bearing good fruit!



*****************

COMPUTER WORKSHOP

ACTIVITY: USE ACTIVITIES ON LIFE OF CHRIST CD TO REINFORCE ELEMENTS OF THIS STORY.

IN REAL TIME WITH THE CHILDREN

1. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity. Each week, see how much more detail each group of kids can supply on the story they've been studying.

2. Link or explain your activity to the current story.

3. Boot up!

*****Watch for the new 'Christ in Space" CD currently in development by our friends at Sundaysoftware.com. This looks awesome!******

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VINE & BRANCHES 2 -- 2nd Rotation, New Activities: * Arts/garden lattice * Kitchen/fruit platter 1 * Kitchen/butter tarts 2 * Music/ teach hymn, I am the Vine * Computer/Cal & Marty

Arts – Twig lattices

Create your own vine-like support structure for any kind of climbing plant – cucumbers, morning glories, even grape vines, if you like!

Materials – long branches from pruned shrubs, 4 inch lengths of thin floral wire (or twist ties or pipe cleaners).

How to do it.

Lay out on the ground your branches in a criss cross pattern. Where branches cross, secure together by wrapping around length of wire.

Kids can work in teams on bigger lattices.

If more time is needed, kids could paint project with acrylic paints.



Kitchen 1 – Fruit platter

Emphasize grapes with a fruit platter featuring green, red and purple grapes. Use other fruits to flesh out, ie watermelon chunks, strawberries, etc.


Kitchen 2 – Butter tart filling

Raisins come from grapes and grapes are synonymous with butter tarts. Use frozen tart shells, and make your own simple filling.

Ingredients: 1/3 cup butter, melted, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 - 2/3 cup raisins/currents or walnuts/pecans, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. salt

Baking instructions:

Combine above ingredients.

Add 2 beaten eggs.

Fill unbaked tart shells 2/3 full and bake at 375F for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden.


Music – Teach hymn, “I am the Vine”

To the tune of Danny boy. Here’s a link to the tune and lyrics on Cyberhymnal.org


Computer – Cal & Marty

A perfect time to create a memory verse lesson on the vine and branches verses from John 15 in this computer program from Sundaysoftware.com


Click here to go back to Top, and links to Background Notes and more from Vine & Branches, Rotation 2.


All original text 2004 - 2014, LD McKenzie

For a brief site ed's bio, click here:

BIO

Components of these lesson sets may be used for non-profit educational purposes, citing this author and site.

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