A Theology of Horticulture I.I
We are all born as branches upon the same Vine, Adam, the father of us all, who disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. The Bible says that when Adam disobeyed God he died spiritually, he was deprived of the supernatural grace of God in the person of the Holy Spirit, and as we have seen, he suffered the four wounds of the fall. Adam and Eve were not created to die. They were created to love God with their whole heart, soul and mind. The human faculties Adam received at his creation – intellect, passion, and volition – were wounded and very nearly ungovernable after the fall. But governed or not, our faculties do not function as God intended apart from God’s disturbing and meddling grace. Not only can we not love God, we cannot love anything rightly without his help. By nature self-concern is never far off. We desire the good, but for the wrong reason and in the wrong manner. By virtue of our natural birth we are born as branches upon this dying Vine called Adam and though we receive from him true humanity, we also receive all the deadly consequences of the fall. Skillful funambulists may balance opposite weights in order to walk a tight rope, but the only outcome for us if we try to balance our natural humanity and the consequences of the fall will be our toppling headlong to death.
But the Good News is that there is another Vine, the Vine of the Church, the Body of Christ, the New Israel. The Church is the Vine because Christ planted this Vine. To be a member of the Church is to be a member of the New Israel, a member of Christ. The Vine of Christ is living; in fact the Vine of Christ is Life. Christ is the very root and head of this Vine and we partake of that Root and its life-giving fatness. In older days the sap of trees, plants, and vines was called “fat.” When my parents were children they used to go through the forest where they lived in North Carolina to gather what they called “fat wood” which was used to start fires in wood stoves and fireplaces. If they were lucky they found enough to sell some of it to their neighbors. Fat wood came from the long leaf pine and it was full of dried resin. Resin is a white gum that saturates the limb or root of the tree and it is so strong it smelled like turpentine. The virtue of fat wood is that it catches fire easily, and so it was used as kindling. Resin is the sap, which is the “life” of the vine or the tree. Now, in Romans 11:17, St. Paul writes that we have been grafted into God’s olive tree — which is the true Israel, Jesus Christ — and we now feed upon the “fatness” of that olive tree. In other words God’s olive tree is saturated with the life of God himself according to the logic of the imagery of sap or fatness. To be a member of the Vine of Christ is to have the privilege of feeding upon the life of God. So on the one hand we are born as branches upon the Vine of Adam and if we continue to feed upon him we are ultimately feeding upon death. On the other hand, we have the New Adam, the New Israel, Jesus Christ, who is full of life and the richness (fatness) of all the privileges God has given his Son. Therefore the only question remaining is “How do we get ourselves attached to this new Vine of Christ?”