“Pruning”: A Sermon by Pastor Bob

One day he and I were out on Sid’s backyard and Sid was doing some pruning. Having pruned several branches Sid said to me, “let me show you a trick.” He bent down to the dirt and gathered a handful, which he then rubbed over the fresh cuts on the branches.I assumed this was a way to seal the new cuts and protect the tree. “No,” said Sid, with a glimmer. “That’s to protect me. This way, my wife can’t tell I pruned her plants.”

“Pruning”

A sermon by Pastor Bob

May 6, 2012

Text: John 15:1-8

John 15:1-8

“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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

–“My father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

–Since Easter morning, we have journeyed through texts that examine who we are as disciples.

–How do we respond to a risen Messiah?

–What do we deal with both our doubt and our faith?

–How do we live as sheep of the good shepherd?

–And today, what does it mean to be connected to the true vine and what fruit do we bear?

 

–There are two ways to read this text.

–The first is to focus on the branches.

–How do you and I become connected to the true vine.

–And once there, how do we summon up the capacity to bear much fruit.

–And if we do not – what then?

 

–If you are like me, your eyes go first in this text, to the dead branches that are gathered and burned in the fire.

–We are quick to wonder:

–Which branch am I?

–Am I the good branch that bears much fruit or am I the branch that bears no fruit and will soon be thrown into the fire?

–What sort of fruit does God require of us and how much is sufficient?

–As we focus on our part in the text, we come to see ourselves as branches that must somehow jump up from the ground and find our way onto the vine.

–And then, once attached, we must find some way to pop out fruit.

 

–But in our urgency to focus on ourselves and to find our place in the text, we have missed God’s place in the text.

–The first verse says, “I am the true vine and God is the vine grower.”

–The center of this text is not we who are the branches, it is God.

–Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, but God is the vineyard keeper.

–God is the one who grafts us to the vine.

–God is the one who cares for and prunes the branches.

–Jesus is the one whose roots connect us to the water of life.

–He is the source of our lives.

–We do not jump to the vine,

–Rather, we are placed there by the Father and tended there according to God’s care.

 

–Do we have responsibility? Indeed we do.

–Verse 4, Jesus says, “Abide in me.”

–The word abide is used 8 times in today’s text.

–Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

–Abide. It means to dwell, to live your days, remain in . . . rest in the love of God.

–How would such a thing change the way we live each day?

–What if we lived, not in the frantic urgency of what is required of us, but rather in the knowledge of God’s love for us.

 

–To abide is not effort, it is gift.

–It is the way you live in the presence of a loved one.

–You abide with them even when you are separated.

–They are never far from heart and mind, and the thought of them brings an aching peace.

–When in their presence, words are not often required.

–You and I are called to abide and dwell in Christ.

–To live as if it were not possible for distance or circumstance to separate us.

–For in Christ it cannot.

–The Psalmist says: “If I ascend to heaven you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”

–Part of what it is to be a branch is to dwell in the vine.

–Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

–The branch cannot bear fruit separated from the vine.

–Nor will a spindly branch survive if planted in the ground.

–I don’t know about you, but I have not had much luck in the things I have tried to do without Jesus.

 

–This is a concept that is a little difficult for North Americans.

–We are taught to stand on our own two feet.

–We are taught to rely on ourselves.

–The best help you have is at the end of our own arm.

–And yet, this text says no.

–This text says, the best help you have is in Jesus.

–There is no room for rugged individualism in this text.

–Instead it says, “Abide in me.” Over and over again.

–Abide in me. Live in me. Dwell in me. Trust in me and count on me, for all things. You will find your life — in me.

 

–And if we are to look for an example of one who abides, so that we might know how to do it, we need not look very far.

–“For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

–Jesus came for the purpose of abiding.

–Jesus came to dwell with his people.

–He did not come with force and with strong hand.

–He came live among us, to heal among us, and to die among us.

 

–Jesus says, “abide in me, as I abide in you.” Yet abiding is no free ride.

–The branches that abide in the vine and bear much fruit, will be pruned by the vine grower in order to bear more fruit.

–Pruning can be a painful process.

–On my daily walk to school with the girls, there is a home completely surrounded by tall rose bushes.

–The roses are beautiful and I wait to see them every day.

–A few months ago, I rounded the corner to see, not tall rose bushes, but pruned stumps with a few spiky branches.

–There was barely a leaf.

–But I was not distraught, because I know enough about roses to know that such drastic work is necessary.

–I waited. And sure enough, this week the rose bushes are in full bloom and a sea of color.

–There are so many roses on each branch that I wonder how the branches can bear up under the weight.

–Had the pruning not been done, the bushes would not have the chance to bloom in such a way.

–God knows the same.

–He knows what work must be done in us, what deadwood must be removed in us, if we are to live.

 

–Back in the same community that I mentioned in last week’s sermon, there lived another farmer.

–His name was Sid.

–Sid was in his 80’s. He was quiet and very wise.

–He said little, but when he did speak it was worth listening.

–His wife usually spoke for both of them.

–Sid also had a great sense of humor. But you had to listen.

–One day he and I were out on Sid’s backyard and Sid was doing some pruning.

–Having pruned several branches Sid said to me, “let me show you a trick.”

–He bent down to the dirt and gathered a handful, which he then rubbed over the fresh cuts on the branches.

–I assumed this was a way to seal the new cuts and protect the tree.

–“No,” said Sid, with a glimmer. “That’s to protect me. This way, my wife can’t tell I pruned her plants.”

 

–Friends, we are branches on the vine.

–And as Paul reminds us well in Romans chapter 11, we are the ones grafted to the vine.

–We are the Gentiles.

–We do not belong naturally to the vine.

–That is Israel’s place.

–We are grafted on lovingly by the vine grower.

–We belong there, not because we have earned our place, or inherited our place, but because God’s love has put us there, and so connected us to the source of our life.

–Paul says we should therefore not boast.

–He says, “remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.”

–And God has grafted far and wide:

–Samaritans and lepers, Gentiles and centurions.

 

–Grafted to the vine, you belong to him, and his love shall never leave you.

–The cross is the final testament to that love.

–A love that bears joy and sorrow, exhaustion and ease, plenty and want.

–A love that goes beyond that, well beyond that.

 .… even to the grave, both his and ours, and beyond, to the salvation God has prepared for us all.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Diana A.

    Beautiful, as always!

  • Gary

    Thank you Pastor Bob.