By Chaplain (Maj.) Joshua Metz
Special to GUIDON
This week’s reading: John 15:1-8 — those churches following the common cycle of readings for the Christian Year will read “The Vine and the Branches.” Although addressed to the nascent Christian Church, this passage presents a metaphor which proves instructive even to a military audience.
This eponymously named metaphor unsurprisingly likens the early church to a vine and its branches, presenting themes which include: connection, discipline, and productivity.
In the metaphor, the vine says to its branches, “apart from me you can do nothing,” pointing to the centrality of connection in this living system.
Similarly, even connected branches require pruning. While pruning is undoubtedly uncomfortable to the individual branch, even in the short term, sometimes looking like pain or harm, these corrections prove ultimately and undeniably beneficial to the whole.
This principle, then, points to discipline.
Finally, if each branch remains connected to the vine and subject to necessary pruning, it goes on to “bear much fruit.”
The final state of this living system, then, is productivity.
While these themes primarily communicate theological principles of the church to its adherents, they may also serve to remind us of important principles of our military service. That service requires the nation’s military professionals to forge strong connections at every level, from the most basic building blocks of the team and squad to the joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational levels of cooperation.
Moreover, as stewards of the profession facing increasingly complex operational environments, the service we offer depends more than ever upon discipline in its delivery. The end goal of all of this effort proves ethical mission accomplishment, or, in a word, productivity.
In short, “The Vine and the Branches” presents a metaphor to not only consider the theological truths of faith tradition, but which also posits principles important to our collective military service.
May we return to our organizations to seek deeper connection, to offer disciplined service, and ultimately to enable greater productivity in our nation’s affairs.
Amen and amen.
(Editor’s note: Metz is the United States Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School chaplain.)