7Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 15The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 18Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”
Genesis 2:7-10, 15, 18
1Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Reflection: Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
What intrigues me most about this image and the passage from John’s Gospel is this idea of pruning. There is much more to the image of God as Gardener, but I cannot escape the haunting image of pruning. After all, look at those clippers in the picture above – that is not a tool designed for comfort! However, notice that God prunes that which is ready to bear fruit. In other words, God’s pruning is a sign of your potential fruitfulness.
At our last parsonage I planted some peach trees. After a year, they started bearing tiny, hard peaches that didn’t mature. Everyone told me I needed to prune the tree and cut it back so that the growth would be more directed and fruitful. Unfortunately, I cut them back way too far, and i was left with two destroyed trees. No matter how much pruning we face in our lives, God will never cut us too far back.
The purpose of pruning is not to cause us pain, but to provide the right circumstances for maximum growth. Notice that Jesus makes a point to remind his disciples that they can do nothing apart from him. Anything that cuts off the intimacy and communion we share with God in Christ is subject to pruning – in order that we might grow again in deeper communion with God. It is not an act of punishment by God, but an act of refocusing us and renewing us.
Sometimes seemingly good things need to be removed from our lives. Not all choices lead to God’s best for us. We can be prevented from doing what God has set aside for us by good distractions. Even though I pruned too much with my peach trees, an appropriate amount of pruning would have still cut off branches that were starting to produce fruit. If I hadn’t, my fruit would have remained small and inedible year after year. God is calling us to produce an abundance, and – somewhat paradoxically – that usually begins with cutting back.
What abundance is God calling you toward? What has to be set aside in order to foster that abundance? Like the purifying of the fire we talked about last week, the pruning of the plant is not easy, but necessary. The results are a fuller reflection of who we were created to be. Allow God the freedom to do some pruning and clear away all that which prevents God’s best from blooming in your life.
Journaling Focus: The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
What is the Christian’s responsibility toward the earth? How are we called to till and keep creation today? Consider a time in which you felt that your dedication to Christ demanded action in caring for an element of creation. Perhaps it was work in preserving the environment, or caring for an animal, or promoting the well-being and flourishing of a fellow brother or sister in the human family. How did you sense your responsibility toward creation? How did you nurture it? What difference did this make in you and what difference did it make in the world? Consider these questions as you reflect in your journal.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Explore: If you would like to explore the Scripture more deeply, go to our Exploring Scripture page!
Listen to the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth. This is my favorite hymn of all time. As you listen, consider the great care God has taken in creating and tending the world and all that lives. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Notice that Jesus does not say in this passage that you will receive whatever you ask for if you are abiding in self-centeredness. The idea is that if we are truly abiding in God, then we will ask for what God wants. Our very desires will be changed. This week, pray for your desires to take root within the desires of God. Ask that God will allow you to want what God wants. Trust that God will reshape your will to match God’s deepest purposes.
Meditation Focus: Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
NOTE: During these ten weeks, as we explore the images of God, the meditation will be an audio meditation. There are four pictures that will appear with each meditation. These pictures are referenced in the audio meditation and are intended to help bring focus to the audio meditation.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- What is God growing within you?
- Where do you see fruit in your life?
- what needs to be cut back or cut out of your life?
- How are you allowing yourself to be watered and nourished by God?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Observe the beautiful flowers that are blooming with brilliant color all around us. Consider how God has created and nurtured them with great care. Then consider how God cares for you. As beautiful as the flowers are, remember that you are more beautiful in God’s sight. As you enjoy the beauty of nature, meditate on Jesus’s words from Matthew 6:28-30: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
Breath Prayer: LORD God, prune us and nurture us.