In our text today, Jesus uses agricultural images that would certainly have been familiar to his disciples. Vinedressers use pruning to remove dead and unproductive branches, and to force a branch to be more productive. Jesus says that our Father prunes the branches that abide in the “true vine.”
The purpose of the branches is to bear fruit, and we can only do so by being attached to Jesus, who is the “true vine.” Grafted into him we bear much fruit(See I am the Vine). And when we are pruned we bear even more fruit. So what is this pruning? Pruning is the way the vinedresser expertly directs the growth of the branches, in order that the plant might be fuller and bear more fruit. As the vinedresser, God our Father used his pruning shears on us.
When we are in union with Christ, and we allow God to work in our lives, he removes those things that would inhibit our growth. It may seem at times that God is removing things from our lives that are beautiful and good, but he has something more beautiful and better in store. In his book, God’s Power to Change Your Life, Rick Warren has a section titled, “Welcome the Pruning Shears.” He writes, “We must remember that the loppers are in the hands of our loving God. He knows what he is doing, and he wants what is best for us.” It is hard to trust someone who is coming at you with shears, but pruning is essential for spiritual growth.
There is an old story about a lady who loved gardening and always tried to have the most beautiful yard in her neighborhood. She especially loved flowering plants and loved that their beauty brought joy to everyone who lived near her. There was a man who lived across the street from her who also liked to garden, but he did his in a competitive spirit. Not that there is anything wrong with competition, but his main objective was to have the most beautiful yard and garden in the neighborhood. He enjoyed the praise from those who passed by. She just enjoyed sharing the beauty.
Every year he would watch his neighbor across the street as she set out plants and flowers, and he would quickly move to match or beat what she was doing. One year she decided to plant roses to add another layer of vibrant color. Seeing this, he did the same, putting out similar varieties. As both of them had green thumbs, the roses did quite well. When they bloomed passersby would comment on their beauty. The man would swell up with pride and thank them. The woman asked which variety they liked best. She would then clip a rose from that bush and give it to them. The man thought her a fool for giving them away, for she was taking away from the beauty of the rose bushes.
The very next year, when it came time for their roses to bloom, her rose bushes had more than twice as many blooms as her neighbor’s. Her yard was far more beautiful to look at than his, for in her giving she had pruned her roses making them much fuller and healthier. It is the same with God our Father, who prunes us in order that our lives might blossom and grow, bearing fruit for the kingdom. Pastor Warren is right, “Welcome the Pruning Shears,” for it is necessary for our growth, and the growth of the Kingdom of God.
The photo of pruning roses is from Humboltrose.org, © 2007 Humboldt Rose Society. All Rights Reserved