Yesterday I preached for the Harbor District Lay Servant Ministries Committee. Here’s my sermon:
I have a confession. I am a horrible gardener!
I can, and do kill most any plant –
I either love it too much or not enough
I either cut it back too far or let it grow out of control
I am not proud to say…..I can kill mint!
In our scripture today is John 15: 1-8 (reading from the common English bible)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 6 If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.
There is a whole lot to unpack in these verses. But tonight we are going to focus on the concept of pruning. As I have already stated, I was not blessed with my grandmother’s green thumb…but I don’t let that stop me from trying!
I have a lovely orange tree. It took me a couple of years to learn how to keep it alive over the winter months. Then, year before last, it was full of blooms that turned to mini-oranges! I was beyond excited! The one day all my mini-oranges fell off. I was devastated. So I consulted a master gardener, who told me that I needed to remove most of the mini-oranges because the tree could not support so many. Last year, my tree was again full of mini-oranges…but I couldn’t decide which to remove and which to keep. I didn’t know how many to remove and how many to keep. And in the end, once again they all fell off.
Do you ever feel like your life is a lot like my orange tree?
You have all these wonderful ideas and like the mini-oranges they are plentiful. And at first you try to do everything! Only to have nothing work out well. Or we have all these great fruits that are growing so well, we begin to think we are the cause of the growth. We start to think we are the vine or the root! But we are not the vine. We are not the root.
God is God. And we are not.
Our scripture tells us that God removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. Have you ever wondered what that might look like?
My dad was a woodworker. I can remember when I was a child learning to use a new tool having my dad place his hand over mine to guide my actions….and later standing by me on my first solo cuts.
Most often when God is pruning us, God, like my daddy, is guiding us, or standing close by as we make the cuts. But How do we know what to cut?
We must be willing to listen to and for God, through the Bible, Through prayer and meditation, and through our holy friends who hold us accountable. However, there are two things I can tell you tonight you need to prune:
Wayne Corderiro, the founding pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu calls pruning ‘protecting the 5%’. He says that 95% or what we do in life others can do – Your job, housework, our volunteer activities, and on and on. But there is 5% only you can do. Only you can be a parent to your children, or a husband or wife to your spouse, only you can take care of your body, or your soul and we must regularly prune our schedule and lives to be sure we do those things….and do them well.
Secondly we must cut away the dead branches of our lives. The regrets, our pasts, our envy, bitterness or resentment. These things are dead wood we are carrying that we need to stop allowing to take up space on our branch. We need to remove it from our lives so that we have room for God’s fruit.
Jesus tells us in verse 5 that he is the vine; and we are the branches. If we remain in Jesus, then we will produce much fruit. Without Jesus, we can’t do anything.
Not too long ago I was trying to cut a vine out of some bushes in my yard, when I noticed that this vine had grown this long wispy branch that was 4-5 feet long that was reaching for a tree…and I thought, how does this vine know there is a tree to reach for? It’s just a plant.
I’ve since learned that it is a process called phototropism. Plants have a hormone called auxin that enables them to grow toward the sunlight so that they can go through the process of photosynthesis and feed itself.
God created us just like the vine in my yard. We too must grow toward the son of God to be fed and to grow and produce fruit. As Paul says in Philippians 3 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.
God – You are the master gardener of our lives. We long to be rooted in you and growing toward you. Guide us as we prune those things that distract us, and those things that make is feel busy but are not productive. God take from us deadwood of our past, our resentfulness and envy. Make us like the light wispy branch reaching toward your light. – Amen