Being Pruned?!

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April 19, 2024
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April 24, 2024
Grief and Hope!
April 19, 2024
Lamentation – Violence in our Homes!
April 24, 2024

We lived for a time in WA, in the Swan Valley, a region filled with vineyards, sandy, rocky soils, and wine!  The hard pruning was done during summer and at its end, the grapes were picked, the late harvest taken in, and the vines pared back to the bare branches without leaves, very much reduced, so the vine could lie dormant for another season until new growth started again.  The fresh green tendrils and shoots, the signs of new life, the clusters of tiny grapes, the new harvest in springtime, a time of great joy and hopefulness.

The imagery and vivid metaphor of vines and pruning is used by Jesus with his disciples as part of his ‘farewell’ conversation in John 15:1-8.  He is speaking to the community whom he believes can live out in the present, even in the middle of persecution, the qualities of peace and joy, promised by their belief in the Word, now present among them. 

Its worth thinking about how we live in times of hardship and how we are shaped by it, as well as by the times of joy; and how we tend and shape the present, the times in which we live, to sow and do whatever else we can in the name of Christ. 

I have been thinking about what its like to be pruned!  As I abide, or not, in Christ, whether or not I am a believer, we are all pruned by God.  For disciples, this means living into the promise of God which also brings with it times when our experience is of letting go what is no longer useful or helpful, of being open to the word of God in new ways and God requiring, inviting us to be new and fresh.   The new shoots without an addiction to the past.  And we need to be careful we don’t end up thinking God makes suffering necessary so we can grow.  This is NOT the case.  Conflating our own meaning-making with God’s intent runs the risk of idolatry.

So, it is important we don’t place our interpretation of the suffering of others or ourselves on our own experiences and understanding; nor in blaming or allocating it to God, as if God has caused it, which is never the case.  What we do need to know and remember, even in the darkest of places when feeling unloved or rejected and abandoned, that God abides, even in the hardest places of suffering and death.  We are never asked to deal with the suffering on our own, whatever comes, God is abiding with us.  We are never alone. 

John’s gospel uses the word ‘abide’. It is a wonderful, old-fashioned word, it recalls meanings such as ‘stay, remain, dwell, endure, being present, live and be alive!’    In the dreadful places of violence in the world, in Gaza, Ukraine, Myanmar, Haiti, Sudan, and in every country and in our own community where there is violence in our homes and relationships, we live in God’s love, in God’s light.   The steadfast connection to Christ reminds us constantly of God’s presence with us and of the ministry of fruitful service always at hand. 

The grace of God is the source of our mission and well-spring of our existence.  So, let’s remember we are not the vine-grower, it is not us making the decisions about who is pruned, or why or not.  It is not the result of our own work.  The branches do not bear fruit apart from the vine and the vine-grower.   We are not the gardeners; we are the vines.    The text from the First letter of John reminds us:

Let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love, does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8) … and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them.  (1 John 4:16)    There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.  We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19)    The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.  (1 John 4:21)

We are not here to judge others, we are created to love others, to show God’s love to the whole world, whether that world is our family, our friends, this church community, or in our workplaces and in our global, national and local addiction to violence, war and conflict.

On Thursday, 25 April we honoured those who died in the First World War on ANZAC Day, and we remember those who have died and been injured in all the conflicts which have happened since, affecting those living in Australia and around the world; and in conflicts which continue to be fought today. 

We remember those who died, and those who have been unacknowledged and forgotten in this country with all our untold stories, and we remember them with love and gratitude for their sacrifice, for their truth telling, and we commit as Christians to ensuring our work and the way we live, is committed to this call of loving rather than hating or living in fear.  We commit to no longer choosing conflict to resolve differences, so God’s world may come into its joyful, loving, peaceful fullness as God has always intended.   

We are reminded that abiding has to do with seeing, hearing, serving God with deeds of love for others.  We are here to bear fruit and make a difference in our communities because we are engrafted into Christ.  We give thanks for the seasons of fruitfulness and for discernment in God’s name.   Let us in every season, love our sisters and brothers in God’s name.

A prayer to end:

Give us a pure heart so we may see you

A humble heart, so we may hear you

A heart of love, so we may serve you

A heart of faith, so we may live you

The Lord be with you. Amen (1)


References

  1. Hammarskjold, D. 1964.  Markings.  Alfred A. Knopf. New York. p. 214
  2. Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E.  2015.  Feasting on the Gospels John, Vol. 2, Chs 10-21.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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