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Pruning and Fruitfulness

What is your favorite chore? You might not have one since a chore typically is a task you need to do, but probably don’t necessarily enjoy. If I do need to pick one mine is vacuuming. I find a satisfaction in seeing the floor clean of dust and debris after running the machine over the carpets or tile. My least favorite? Yard work.

Growing up my dad made me work on his yard. Our house sat on a quarter acre on a hill in Concord, California. Dad loved growing Asian fruit trees and vegetables. He grew up on a farm in Hunan, so I can’t blame him for wanting to go back to his roots. Only I wish he hadn’t recruited me to be one of his gardening assistants. After years of working on that yard I never wanted to pull another weed or dig another hole for a sapling again.

At the beginning of my leave earlier this month I vacuumed the floor, including moving furniture and rugs. Then Lori asked if I could help her in the backyard. I immediately thought about those hundred-degree summer days where I weeded the backyard in Concord for hours. Lori’s ask seemed more reasonable: help prune the grape vines and set up trellises to prepare for spring.

I did find a similar satisfaction working with the vines. Perhaps my innate desire for order kicked in as I cleaned up the tangled web of wild dormant branches. I also grew in appreciation for biblical reflections from vineyards. In the Gospel of John Jesus talks about the vine and the branches as analogous to Him and His followers:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“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.” (John 15:1–5 NIV)

I caught myself mentioning to Lori that pruning the grape vine branches would lead to better fruit. Jesus asserts the same: pruning is necessary for greater fruitfulness in Kingdom life. Jesus teaches that nothing truly valuable can be done apart from a close connection with Him.

As I continue in this personal leave, I’m starting to see that God is not only desiring me to draw close to Him, but also submit to what He might want to prune away. It’s not always easy to admit that I need to make a change, or even stop doing something that is not the most edifying. But if we as His followers want to be as fruitful in life as He desires, we need to stay close enough to Jesus to know what He wants to both add and take away.

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Howard

 

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