The Glory Has Departed
Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence
Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Monday, April 4, 2016
Pruning and John 15
One of the best known passages in the Gospels is also a lesson about pruning roses. When we understand pruning, John 15 is more vivid. The believer will find it impossible to separate Creation from this simple act that improves, protects, and renews roses and similar plants.
John 15 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
This beautiful I AM sermon reminds us that the Son of God spoke as the Angel of the Lord addressing Moses from the Burning Bush (Exodus 3). The attributes of the Savior are taught in the I AM sermons. Like many other passages in the New Testament, Jesus teaches about Creation as the Creating Word.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Grapes are like roses. They need the old growth to be cut away, to spur growth and fruiting. Once the branch has produced fruit, it must be cut to keep the plant in production. Otherwise, the plant senses its work done and stops producing. Taking away and purging are two words used for the same one in the original text – cleansing.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
The use of “clean” makes more sense when we realize the word for pruning used above is “cleanse.” We are cleansed by the Gospel, through repentance and forgiveness, to become more fruitful.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
The relationship we have with the Savior is two-fold. We abide in Him through the Means of Grace, the Word and Sacraments, and He abides in us the same way. We cannot be productive for the Kingdom unless we remain attached to the True Vine through the invisible Word of preaching and teaching, the Visible Word of the Sacraments. Grapes do not grow apart from a vine. Roses do not grow when separated from the rose bush.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
This verse repeats and emphasizes the concept that the Christian Church consists of the branches growing from – and never apart from – the True Vine. Those who abide in the Savior through worship, study, prayer, and the Sacraments are especially productive. Without those basics of the Faith, nothing can be done that is worthwhile.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
When someone no longer abides in Christ, his lot is no different from the unproductive branch. This is brief look at Final Judgment, warning people against the effects of abandoning the Gospel, as so many have, especially in the leadership and teaching positions of the established denominations.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
In contrast, remaining with the True Vine, through the Means of Grace, guarantees that our prayers will be answered. By being productive as believers we glorify the Father and the Son and remain true disciples, students of the Gospel.
Thus Pruning Roses
Nothing makes the new rose gardener more squeamish than pruning roses, but that is what the plants want and need. A relative had two old roses bushes that no longer flowered. I said, “These need extensive pruning. John 15. Cut the dead wood and cut the roses once they have bloomed.”
She resisted, so I suggested a long shopping trip with my wife Chris. When they came back, both bushes were severely and properly pruned. She cried. I said, “Give them two weeks and water them generously. Mulch them with grass clippings to.” We received a phone call two weeks later. She was bawling again. “Those rose bushes are completely filled with blooms.” I have told many people what I repeated to her, “Keep following John 15. Cut away all dead wood. Cut off the roses that are spent. Cut diseased, damaged, or crossing branches. Water and mulch.”
I take long walks with our dog Sassy, and the one thing I see most is the unpruned rose or crepe myrtle bush. If gardeners pick peas, or beans, or tomatoes, they know the plant will flower, offer up pollen to bees, and produce again. The beans or peas left on the vines will become mature seeds. The pods will dry up, and the vines will go into retirement. And yet, people fail to see the same thing happening on roses, which grow flowers to have them fertilized and produce hips, or seed pods. At the end of the season we want roses to go dormant for the winter. During the growing season we want them pruned all the time to produce even more growth on top and root extensions below.