The Spring Time of each year is a natural time for pruning trees and shrubs. I do have to admit that after trimming away the dried, weary branches of the bushes around my home — as well as some of the stray, wiry green shoots — the bushes looked much neater and nicer.
But pruning is not just for appearance sake. Pruning is about more than making things look better.
Pruning allows for more productive growth of the plant. Pruning is for the sake of the plant.
Pruning sheers away a part of a plant. If plants had feelings — we might say that the one who prunes sees the benefit — it is the plant that suffers loss for the sake of gain.
For us human beings — pruning can hurt. Pruning can hurt. In the midst of the hurt, in the midst of the pain, we do not see the “good” that is promised for the future.
Right now, law enforcement is being “pruned” across our country. Following a death in the streets in Ferguson, MO, a death on a sidewalk in New York City, following a death after a routine traffic stop in North Charleston, SC, following a death of a man in custody in Baltimore, MO —— tactics of police are being questioned and examined all over our country. Something must change — something must be cut-away. Things must look different and be different.
And, so must it be for you, for me, for the institutional Church, for our families. After the darkness of winter, we must be about the work of pruning —- so that the new life of Spring might bud forth and not be lost in the overgrowth and the dried, barren branches.
Most of those who read this posting would believe that Pope Francis is pruning the Roman Catholic Church these days. He is trimming away the barren, unproductive, gangly branches that take away the life and beauty of the Church.
The pruning can be done by un-chosen, un-wanted life events — the pruning can come through planned, self-imposed disciplines — the pruning can come through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ——- or, as noted in John 15:1-8, by the WORD already spoken to us.
As many of you know, I fell on Christmas Eve, breaking my right knee cap, my left knee, and my right thumb. Over the 13 1/2 weeks of recovery, I learned that plans could be changed — things I “had to do” no longer a high priority. Getting well and being well was all of a sudden was the only thing. The calendar got “pruned”, my social calendar gave way to being still.
The loss of a job, the move of a friend, the death of a dear one — trims away the unimportant and insignificant.
We spend time in prayer, we go on retreat, we step back —- we see what is draining us, what is causing stress in our lives — what is death-dealing ——— and we let go, we make changes in our lifestyle, we set new priorities. Pruning occurs.
All of a sudden — out of nowhere — something becomes clear and we realize we cannot go through with a plan — or a choice we made was not good for us, and we change course. We prune away what we once thought was a good for us.
If you plant peas, you can’t expect corn to grow.
God knows what he planted us for. He IS THE VINE, we are the branches. He has planted us for a reason, a purpose. God has expectations that we grow as HE has planned — to bear fruit he wants.
If Christians would spend more time worrying about the fruit they are bearing and LESS TIME WORRYING ABOUT THE FRUIT THEY THINK OTHERS SHOULD BE BEARING, the world would look like the handiwork of God.
1 John 3:18-24 tells us “love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth.”
In the plant world, the bush has no choice about being pruned. You and I do have a choice. The WORD has been spoken.