Prunes or Pruned?

Originally Preached on 5/2/2021

Message Title: Prunes or Pruned?
Theme: Even the Rocks Will Cry Out
Season: Easter
Main Text: John 15:1-8
Scripture Reading: Psalm 22:25-31
RCL Scripture: *Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
Focus: Jesus uses an analogy to prepare his disciples for his absence.
Function:
To reflect on the fruitfulness of our lives and prune off things that don’t help us flourish.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 22: 25-31 I offer praise in the great congregation because of you; I will fulfill my promises in the presence of those who honor God. 26Let all those who are suffering eat and be full! Let all who seek the Lord praise him! I pray your hearts live forever! 27Every part of the earth will remember and come back to the Lord; every family among all the nations will worship you. 28Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord, he rules all nations. 29Indeed, all the earth’s powerful will worship him; all who are descending to the dust will kneel before him; my being also lives for him. 30Future descendants will serve him; generations to come will be told about my Lord. 31They will proclaim God’s righteousness to those not yet born, telling them what God has done.

NATIONAL PARK: Smokey the Bear & National Parks

  1. Audience Engagement: Does anyone know what Smokey the Bear’s catch phrase was?
    1. My Grandmother & Smokey the Bear Song sheets
    2. Grandma’s “smokey the bear hat”
  2. National Parks vs. National Forests are technically different BUT both have the same approach when it comes to fires.
    1. Reduce accidental fires (fires caused by humans) by prohibiting fires when its dry
    2. Allowing wildfires to run their course (but not get out of hand or harm humans) because it has been proven good for the ecosystem
    3. Light the occasional controlled fire known as a “Prescribed fire” to help an ecosystem when it is seen fit.
  3. Sources:
    1. https://www.fs.usda.gov/science-technology/fire
    2. https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/fire
    3. https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/what-are-the-differences-between-national-parks-and-national-forests?gclid=Cj0KCQjw-LOEBhDCARIsABrC0TndHcIL4kWCyF1kDa4awoa93IWqC73_d50op4MKTiI7rCa7bxb5x2EaArmoEALw_wcB
    4. https://www.nps.gov/cuva/learn/news/cuyahoga-valley-national-park-to-conduct-prescribed-fires.htm
    5. https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fire/index.htm
    6. https://www.fs.usda.gov/features/story-smokey-bear
    7. https://smokeybear.com/en/smokeys-history/story-of-smokey

TRANSITION:  As a kid, I always assumed all forest fires were bad fires. Especially with the way Smokey the Bear talked about preventing forest fires. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that some fires actually help a forest flourish.

In our text for today, both plants and fire will enter the discussion about producing the best fruit.

SCRIPTURE: John 15: 1-8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.

3You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 6If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned.

 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.

EXPLAINATION: Jesus uses an analogy to prepare his disciples for his absence.

  1. Background:
    1. After the foot washing on Maundy Thursday
    2. Part of the “farewell discord” of John where Jesus gives final instructions before his arrest.
    3. Can you hear him urging them to be attentive and faithful?
      1. “stay with me” – even if I’m not physically with you “stay with me”
  2. Scripture Outline:
    1. I am the vine
    2. Father is the vineyard keeper who prunes & trims
    3. You are branches and have been trimmed to bear good fruit
      1. Stay connected to me and you will live and produce fruit
      2. Disconnect from me and you lose your life source
    4. Father is glorified in your fruit

INTERPRETATION: Jesus uses an analogy to prepare his disciples for his absence.

  1. Judgmental Elephant: I want to stop for a moment and discuss the traditional elephant of judgement in the room.
    1. This passage has been used as a threat to tell people they could be thrown into the fiery furnace of hell if they don’t follow Jesus.
    2. This passage of comfort, has been used as a passage for fear. I want us to take time to reclaim the beauty of this passage.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Before we do that, let’s have a plant pruning exercise.
    1. Two plants, people come up and prune the plants
    2. What made you choose to prune that spot?
  3. Gardening practices: Here are some gardening tips from a few gardening websites-
    1. “For extensive rejuvenation, completely remove the entire plant 6 to 10 inches above the ground using heavy lopping shears and a pruning saw. Healthy shrubs will respond by sending up new shoots.”
    2. “For gradual rejuvenation, remove one-third of the oldest, unproductive branches. The next year, take half of the old, lingering stems. In year three, prune out the remainder of the old branches. While this takes longer to complete, the shrub stays more attractive throughout the process.”
    3. “Proper pruning is a must for a productive, happy fruit tree. Pruning your trees can give their leaves better access to light, keep messy growth to a minimum and help them set bigger, juicier fruit. Remove dead wood, and thin out branches that cross each other. Every species of tree is different, so read up on when and how to prune your tree for best results.”
    4. Sources:
      1. https://gilmour.com/shrub-care-tips
      2. https://www.landscapemanagement.net/step-by-step-how-to-perform-rejuvenation-pruning/
      3. https://www.cabinlife.com/articles/5-tips-for-fruit-tree-success
  4. As Jesus is preparing his disciples for his absence, he gives them instructions on how to remain faithful.
    1. Remain in me – abide in me – cling to me
    2. I will give you life and you will produce fruit.
    3. It seems like we skim over these words of comfort but, our ears naturally perk up at prune, dead, and fire.
  5. We naturally associate those things with individuals being cut off of the faith family tree instead of considering each of us a plant needing pruning. We label whole individuals as good or bad instead of a beloved creation of God that could be pruned to flourish.

APPLICATION: To reflect on the fruitfulness of our lives and prune off things that don’t help us flourish.

  1. As we reflect on the pruning exercise and common gardening practices, I want us to connect back to the scripture.
    1. What could spiritual pruning look like?
      1. Does God want to take away the sources of joy in our life?
      2. God isn’t saying give up video games or bubble baths.
      3. God is saying, those things that harm my relationship with you or your relationship with others, those things need to go. What needs to be pruned will be different depending on the person.
        1. Some will need to prune substances.
        2. Some will need to prune their language.
        3. Some will need to prune their entertainment.
    2. How could you make room for your own pruning?
    3. How could you give grace to others who are being pruned?


COMMUNION:
 As we prepare to share communion together, we recognize Christ as our source of life AND we recognize our spiritual family are all growing and at different stages of the pruning process. We don’t all look the same as we come to the table. But we are all loved completely by the Jesus who make this table.

Deacons bless bread & juice

Come to the table.

CONCLUSION

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