1 I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

John chapter 15, verses 1 and 2, from the New Living Translation

We live out in the country. Now for you city-folks, it’s a rural area. We could look to the south and there are lots of trees. Look to the east, trees! Look to the west, trees! And up until this week, we could look to the north and see trees. But not now. That property has gone through what is known as “clear cutting.” With the except of a few very small trees, all of the trees are gone. We do have a view now of the next hill over–but because there are no more trees. It’s a beautiful view–but still–we miss those trees. The landscape looks much different now than last week. 17 acres of trees are gone to be repurposed for other things. And it’s our changed view that inspires today’s musings.

You are probably familiar with this morning’s passage about pruning. There’s a high probability that even though you are not a horticulturist (but then again, maybe one of you are a horticulturist), you understand the principle of purning. But like a lot of principles of the Bible that you may understand–they take on new meaning when it’s happening to you. Sure, we all understand what Jesus meant by “pruning”–but when WE are the ones being pruned–well, that’s just different; even though it’s not. Let’s get blunt right here, right now. Pruning is often painful.

We think we’re doing pretty good. We’re starting to see the fruit being produced; maybe even in great quantities. Life is moving along rather smoothly; well, at least as smoothly as it can. Then all of a sudden–BAM!!!!!! God’s pruning shears are turned in our direction. It “feels” different than when we look at it from the outside! And drastic changes happen; changes we never anticipated or saw coming. So, how do we handle the times of God’s pruning? Are YOU going through a time of God’s pruning?

We didn’t see the clear-cutting coming. And the property owner never asked us what we thought about clear-cutting his property. But it happened, baby! Now we have a choice in front of us. We can whine and reminisce about the good old days when all those trees were there. Or, we can take in our new view, a beautiful view that we couldn’t see until all those trees were harvested. We can grumble; or we can anticipate watching the new growth appear in the coming months and hopefully, years. I’m a deer hunter–and this “pruning” has really messed up the area I hunt. I probably won’t see many this upcoming season at this spot. But I understand that in a year or two, it will get much better. So, I’ve just got to be patient–and appreciate what we are now seeing. Besides, I have access to other hunting spots!

Back to pruning! Pruning isn’t about taking away–it’s all about preparing for even more than before! Remember this if and when you enter into the pruning times. And to my United Methodist friends, sisters, and brothers–this is true for us as well. As we discern God’s Future for us, there will be pruning; pruning is necessary for growth! Pruning isn’t a little snip here and a little snip there. We may lose some things we thought–ONLY thought–were important and we just need to hold on to them. But. . .if we see and gladly accept the things we might lose as God’s Pruning, then we are going to see even more and greater fruit.

Twice a year we venture down to see family and friends in central Florida. That journey takes us by orange orchards; both active and abandoned. It’s obvious to notice that some orchards have been abandoned. Their limbs haven’t been pruned. And the quality and the quantity of fruit greatly dimishes. Many of the orange trees are either dying or dead. All because they haven’t been pruned. But the active orchards–the ones being pruned–are green and alive with fruit. And what pruning does for orchards–God’s pruning does the same for us.