Becky and I recently visited with good friends in Spokane Washington (and I also got to have a coffee with Jen Russell 😊 who lives there). I started each morning with a great hike in the mountains, and on one particular morning I found myself trekking through some pretty dense evergreen forest. I noticed there was a lot of undergrowth, including moss, ferns, Oregon Sunflower, pinecones, etc. But I didn’t see any pine tree seedlings, at least not until I came to an area where there had obviously been a forest fire. I saw dozens of seedlings among the burned out remains of what were once mighty pine trees. I was compelled to stop and take a picture of one of the seedlings because I was intrigued by the conditions under which I found it. Then, that got me to thinking.

Jesus, in John 15 said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-grower. God removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit” (vs. 1-2). I used to think about the branches as individual people, some are cut away, others are pruned for more growth. But as I walked among the pine trees, I thought about it differently. Each branch is pruned, and the pruning helps clear away overgrowth. If a vineyard is not pruned the plant produces a lot of foliage that becomes shade, limiting the plant’s ability to set fruit buds. Just like the dense pine forest, too much shade hinders the seedlings growth. Likewise, if a vineyard is not pruned, the plant can grow too many grape clusters, robbing all the fruit of the nutrients to mature and sweeten. The purpose of pruning is to obtain maximum yields of high-quality grapes. Shade and over production rob the vine of the opportunity to produce a great harvest.

Rather than thinking about it as individual people who produce fruit or are pruned, consider instead what needs to be pruned in your life for a better quality “fruit.” Ponder what overshadows your ability to absorb the energy of the Son (intended), and how you might clear away what hinders your ability to grow in the love of God (As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love).

Sometimes we need to burn away the overgrowth in our own lives to open up opportunities for new growth to happen, but that can be painful. Sometimes we even need to prune the places where fruit is borne in order to bear even better fruit in the next harvest.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Don

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