Imagine: you're visiting a vineyard and see row after row of vines with big clusters of luscious grapes. But you wouldn't see any grapes if the grower hadn't done some heavy pruning — some really heavy pruning.
Years ago when we purchased our farm it had about 100 grapevines. None of them produced a single grape because the previous owners had become too old to prune them. Each plant had about a dozen weak, pencil-slim shoots. They lay in a tangle on the ground.
We went next door to take a look at our neighbors' commercial grape operation. Their plants each had one sturdy vine at least 3 inches thick. They harvested truckloads of grapes every year.
"What you'll have to do," they told us, "is select just one shoot on each plant (and prune off all the rest) and fasten it up to the wire. Then you'll have to go out every week and prune back all the new shoots."
So we pruned and pruned. By the second year each vine was getting close to an inch thick, by the third year more like 2 inches, and by the fourth year close to 3 inches. We still had to keep pruning off all those pesky shoots, week after week. When winter came, we had to prune back the many-feet-long horizontal branches to about 4 inches. Drastic!
Eventually we began to get some grapes.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel lesson for Sunday (John 15:1-8) that he is the true vine and his Father is the vine grower. His Father prunes off every branch in him that bears no fruit, Jesus says. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit, Jesus adds.
That's rough stuff.
It's not easy having the grower prune our lives. But if we want to bear fruit ....
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