The Master Gardener
Trusting God sounds like it should be an easy thing. However, in our walk of faith there are many times when we might question God’s plan for us. When we realize that perhaps we would like a little more control or say in how events are being shaped.
Our passage this morning reminds us that God is the master Gardener. That when God makes changes in our life it is always for a redemptive purpose.
The Master Gardener – Audio Sermon
There are certain things in life that we just have to do. Sometimes we are good at those things and sometimes we are not. In most instances we can get by and the job gets done. If it is something we need to do repeatedly we might get better. If it is a job we enjoy we might deliberately invest more time in the task.
One such job that arises at this time of year is gardening. Now that the cold is gone and the rain has stayed away it is time to get the lawn and the gardens in good shape. We rake the dead grass out, we remove the weeds that infest the flower beds. Plant new shrubs and move others around.
One of the other jobs is to prune the trees and shrubs. It seems an odd thing to cut and remove what appears to be a healthy part of a plant. However in doing so we allow the plant to grow in a more healthy way. The problem I have when pruning trees and bushes is that I’m a hack. You see gardening is not one of those things that I enjoy, nor am I good at it.
So when I get finished pruning a tree you know I’ve been there and done the job.
Our gospel lesson from John this week looks at the issue of pruning the vine. This past week the Session met and for our devotional we looked at this passage. The question I asked them was this: Do you trust the gardener?
The answer might seem apparent and self-evident, however it opens up a host of other questions. It pushes and prods us over issues of control of our own life. Control is something that we are not good at giving up.
What does it mean to let God do the pruning? What if God cuts something out that I enjoy? What if after being pruned I begin to grow in a direction that I find frightening?
If you come to my house and see the work I’ve done in the garden you will not leave inspired. Gardening is not my strength. However, if you go to the home of a master gardener you will leave inspired. You will see what is possible with time, patience, planning and love.
Which is why the pruning Jesus is talking about in our passage is not a scary thing. The gardener knows what He is doing. The pruning might still cause us some pain – He might cut off a particular part that we are fond of, a habit we enjoy, something we are proud of. It might be a part of our lives that we think it really important, that we couldn’t live without.
But the gardener knows what He is doing. And He prunes with a purpose, that we might be even more fruitful. This is what God wants for us and what God wants from us; that we bear fruit.
As you are aware over the course of the past year the Session has been engaged in a process of discernment. We have sought to better understand how God is calling us as a congregation to serve the community of Cobourg. During our annual meeting this past year we engaged the congregation in a discussion about how St. Andrew’s is being called to grow and minister to the community.
With prayer and discussion the Session is beginning to narrow in on a place to start. To renew our focus and commitment to God’s mission in the world. A mission that is redemptive and full of divine purpose. Our goal is not to cut and remove aspects from the life and ministry of St. Andrew’s as it exists. However, we are taking a close look at the ministry we are engaged with and deciding where we should focus our attention.
As we continue to work on this vision we will bring you updates and when the work is done we will present this vision to you. Please continue to pray for the work of this congregation for the ministry it does in our community and beyond.
At the heart of this passage is a message about trust, faith and love.
We are asked to trust in God who is the gardener. That if we remain in Christ we will be encouraged to grow and to bear more fruit. As we remain in Christ and Christ in us we are reminded that this passage speaks to more than just us as individuals. Jesus is the true vine and we know that the Church is also his.
If we recognize this as true then we know that the pruning is not just about making us individually be more fruitful. It is about making Christ’s church more fruitful. We are all a part of that. Christ is the central vine and we are a part of the network. We are asked to remain close so that our fruit will be good, not for our own sake but for the sake of all. We are all part of the body of Christ. We need our hands and our feet. Our eyes and our ears. We need our left hand talking to our right hand.
This passage raises the notion about whether church is just a place we attend for an hour on Sunday morning or whether our faith is rooted in something deeper.
I wonder if faith is a verb or a noun?
Is faith a thing which we have an understanding of?
Or is faith something that we do? Perhaps it is semantics, but I hope you take my point. Perhaps we can best say that faith is a noun which is transformed into a verb. That is our faith spurs us to action.
There are many images that people have developed about faith over time. Some feel that the best image for faith is walking. Some say faith is a matter of the head and the heart–what you know and how you feel. Others say it’s a matter of the hands and feet–what you do and where you go. I have always enjoyed Eugene Peterson’s view which comes from the title of one of his books that faith is “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”
Think of that: a long obedience in the same direction.
God is the gardener. As a gardener God is exceedingly patient, yet God has a plan for creation. Which is why God prunes. You see though I believe God is all-powerful and all-knowing, I also believe that God desires our assistance in seeing his divine plan fulfilled. God wants us to bear good fruit because it is pleasing to God that we do so. It is pleasing to God because it means we are in relationship with God and because we are working and living out God’s plan for creation.
In our passage today we read about faith as remaining, abiding, staying still and calm and in one place, rooted to Jesus. At the same time, we are called to produce fruit, to be active, vibrant, and verdant.
Jesus reminds us that the vines that move away from the central vine are pruned and kept short. We are at our best, when we are closest to Jesus.
God is the creator, the gardener. We are the fruit. What does this image tell us about our life of discipleship?
It tells us that when God is doing the maintenance and the pruning, we are guaranteed to grow. That we will find the promise of new life. The pruning that God does is redemptive, it is not arbitrary.
Do we trust God’s plan as the master gardener or do we need to rebel against God’s love and grow in a different direction?
Today, on anniversary Sunday we get to reflect on the past 182 years of ministry that this congregation has been involved in. We think about the ways we have brought about good fruit. Of the many times that God may have pruned our branches to make us more vibrant and enthusiastic about our faith.
Think of the many ways that we as a congregation have been connected to the true vine?
- Soup kitchen
- Hosting community outreach groups (AA, Girl Guides)
- Visiting our brothers and sisters in Christ
- Small groups
The Vine is transformed from an image of agriculture to a symbol of love, mission and community. The vine moves from being a noun, from being a thing to something of action. We are the vine at work. The vine does not simply sit idle. If you look at a vine or if you look at any fruit tree, it may look idle or dormant. But beneath the surface the vine is at work. Nutrients are transferred, the vine grows and ultimately bears fruit.
Beneath the surface good work is going on which will bear good fruit. That is the same thing we are called to do when we abide in Christ. When we allow the gardener to tend us. Not to remain idle, but to get to the busy work of bearing fruit.
It is my prayer that this congregation will be bearing good fruit for many years to come. Amen.