On quiet days I like to slip out into our garden to do a little work. This afternoon while my boys were busy playing with trains and watching the Olympic trials I headed out to do some much needed pruning. My hanging baskets were wild. My tomato plants were mangled. After the storm last night they needed some serious care. The hanging baskets were relatively easy. It just took some time, patience and a steady hand to untangle the long vines and pull the dead and dying pieces from within. The tomatoes were another story. The storm had broken one plant in half. It had flattened many others. The plants I had tended, stalked and tied were no longer standing tall. Instead they were laying flat and broken. They were seriously compromised.
I sat down and got to work. I separated broken pieces. I pulled what tomatoes I could find off those broken parts. I tied the plants up again. I separated and divided. I worked to ensure more stability. Then I stood back and looked at that which was left. It was not the same. That which was left was not the same. It was shorter, smaller, stockier. The plants weren’t as far reaching or full. They looked different. They were new. They were healthier.
The plants that were left were healthier. I was ruthless while tending them. I cut off pieces that were unneeded. I sought to find ways of ensuring their health and well being. Sometimes a good pruning makes things better. It’s painful at the time. Sometimes our hand is forced to make it happen. But ultimately it is often the best thing. Sometimes in order to make things better pieces have to be removed, the plant has to be pruned, cuts need to be made.
I think in many ways this is where we are as a church. We are overgrown. There are branches that reach so far from the vine that they aren’t stable, they are weak. There are parts of us who have drifted. Parts of us who are tired. Parts of us who are dying. We are in need of pruning. A period of being cut back, shaped and reformed. We have a choice. We can chose to wait, to let God take over or we can be willing participants and surrender ourselves to this process. Ultimately the choice is ours. We can act or we can sit. We can move or we can stall.
I stalled. It was messy. My plants were destroyed after the storm came through and I needed to work hard to rebuild my garden and help these plants find their way once more. If we stall it will be messy. We may be destroyed before we are rebuilt and that will be quite painful. If we surrender to pruning now it might be a slightly more gentle process, though undoubtedly still painful.
Should wait until there is no choice for us or should we act and surrender to God’s will? This is one of those things that is so hard. Emotions are tied up in this. People’s histories and stories are involved. This is about more than buildings and money, this involves courage and fear, thoughtfulness and prayer. This morning rather interestingly before I even had glanced at my garden I came across this verse in my morning reading. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2 It would seem that none of us, those who are healthy and those who are not are able to escape the pruning process. The question for us then is whether or not it is time? Is it our time to be pruned? Do we ask for God’s direction or wait until we are forced into action?
I leave it to you, what should we do?