“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.
Last weekend was finally warm enough for us to spend a good chunk of time in our garden. We just moved house last November, so it's been mainly winter in the garden. It's only now that we're beginning to discover what else is there, slowly emerging from the cold or soggy ground. I discovered a herb garden that the previous occupants of the house had planted. It's pretty overgrown but, with some pruning and care, it will be a wonderful addition to our kitchen.
I was sharing with other ministers this week the notion that, sometimes, we have to lay down or stop doing things we love - because it is what God requires of us. It's not that those things are not important - or even fruitful. Rather, it is that God is requiring of us something else for this day. And God knows that is not easy and not without pain.
As ever, I also found that I was preaching/ speaking of something that I needed to learn again and remember. Almost three years on, I still feel keenly the loss of being a parish minister. That is still an open wound among all the good things that have come with this new work that God requires of me. Grounding that in the context of the vine and the branches helps not to lessen the pain so much as to bring the reminder and the reassurance of God's pruning along the way, taking us well beyond the places we love or are comfortable, even where we are making a difference - to be engaged in the Mission of God today. Pruning is painful, particularly when what we have to prune is still bearing fruit, but it is essential in the work of the garden and in the work of the kingdom in every season.