Would you mind being pruned?
If you could have been in church this morning (Sunday) you would have heard the passage from John’s Gospel where Jesus says to his disciples that he is the vine and they are the branches. By remaining connected to him, Jesus is saying, they will be fruitful. A branch of itself can produce no fruit. So it is a powerful and convincing illustration of how Christians need to be connected to Jesus. It is also a general illustration of any social arrangement. It works because people hang in there together led by a person or an idea or a set of values. Cut yourself off from that social arrangement and chances are you will not thrive, and you may well have weakened the whole community.
The branches grow from the main plant and break into leaf. I am not a gardener, but I understand that the problem is that, left to themselves, the branches will grow and grow. This may be a joy to watch and a fine example of exuberant growth but it is, unfortunately, at the expense of any grapes that may be trying to grow. The plant is so busy sending energy to the farthest reaches of the branches that the poor grapes get by-passed!
So, it is necessary for the vine-dresser (we are to understand this as God) to curb the branches’ enthusiasm. The branches must be pruned if the plant’s energy is to be channelled to produce fruity grapes. At the same time, any branches showing no sign of bearing fruit need to be removed entirely - again so that the plant’s energy is directed to its fruit.
Quite a life lesson really. We can set off with great intentions – to do a whole range of things - but sadly the consequence might be that we achieve little or nothing. Our energy is so dissipated that there is no fruit at all. It sounds good and may even look good - but, in the longer term, may be disappointing.
Every so often, we need to take stock. Maybe we are trying to do too much. I think people who are carers for family members are prone to do this. They are so devoted to caring that they burn themselves out doing a million things - and then no one benefits. Equally, of course, someone could be like ONE very fruitful branch – but they could do more! Could they manage another branch, perhaps? Do more for God: share their talents, spread some more light, help a few more people?