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Have you ever felt pruned?

And no, I don’t mean those prunes they supposedly give old people in the nursing homes to, um, keep them going, as it were.

No, I mean, have you ever felt that while you have been really doing all you can to be a faithful, committed, follower of Jesus, you are also feeling the sharp edge of a pruning hook in your life.

If you take a look outside you know now is the season of the year where everything seems to be coming to life. There are flowers on every bush and plant! The birds are out in astronomic numbers and, sigh, the bugs are out too.

I get it, bees and moths and butterflies and all the rest get the pollen – that stuff that is striking up the allergy bandwagon – going because it is time to get those plants ready to fruit.

But, it’s also time for some pruning. 

In our garden at the house Sue has been digging out the black raspberries that inhabit the space between the parking lot and the manse’s lawn. 

They are wild, overgrown, and really need a good new home. 

I realize that not all plants get pruned right now for sure, but most plants have to get pruned at some point. 
And it turns out there is a reason!

Pruning allows the plant to send its energy to the part of the plant that is producing fruit, instead of just to new growth.

While new growth is wonderful, if you are supposed to be producing fruit, that kind of defeats the purpose.

And it turns out that is true of disciples too. 

In order to be the granola we keep saying we are as a congregation, fruits, flakes and nuts, some cosmetic surgery may be needed.

Some dead branches need to be removed, and some new shoots need to be trimmed back so we as a faith community can concentrate on producing the fruit, the spiritual depth, that God intends for us.

The reason is some of the things that made us strong and flexible and resilient in the past, are now making us stiff, inflexible, and perhaps a bit weaker than we imagine.

Sometimes we are so invested in doing things a particular way, that we haven’t looked up and noticed that they are not as productive as they once were.

We’re continuing to do the exact same things day in and day out and expect - for no apparent good reason - different results.

So, a pruning is needed!

Now, some of us go to the gym. Crazy, I know!
If you go to the gym and do the same thing over and over, it might be a good idea to see if those exercises you doing are actually helping you make the gains you want. 

If they aren’t, you need to change it up. Do a bit of maintenance. Drop this exercise and add a different, perhaps more challenging, one!

Or maybe you need to look at your budget and see if what is on there is still getting you to the place you want to be. 

Lots of us have good intentions, to reach out and care for a friend, to read the bible every day, to remember to pray in the car on the way to work.

But because we do things the same way all the time, nothing changes!

I have a sign in my office that steals Nike’s slogan: Just do it!

It is amazing what happens when I look up and see it. It changes my pattern of doing, and I take on the challenge and get it done!

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the pastor was saying he had given a little talk to his church about giving. 

You all realize that during changes in church life some folks don’t give quite as well as they did before. It’s hard! Just when we need everyone pulling together, some will choose to back off!

So, the pastor was completely taken off guard when one of his parishioners came up after the talk and said, “Within five years I want to be the biggest contributor to this church.”
The pastor was shocked. And a bit lost for words. He knew this man, and knew that in his life, when this guy set himself an objective, he gets it done.

This guy was ready to make the changes he thought he needed to grow spiritually. And giving is just one of those exercises, disciplines that grow faith!

He was ready to be pruned, or to do some pruning himself, if that meant he could do what he really believed he needed to do! 

He wanted to produce the fruit of the Spirit in his life that God was calling him to; he wanted to grow, to be better connected to the vine, go be a healthy and happening disciple!

As followers of Jesus, we need to take a good look at ourselves and see if perhaps our spiritual practices are really growing us. 

Maybe they are! But maybe they aren’t. And if they aren’t, perhaps, perhaps, that is why, right now you are struggling.

Perhaps, God in his great mercy is giving you a good pruning, so your life can be not only more fruitful, more faithful, growing and even more healthy, but even more exciting and fulfilling!

And before you get crabby with me, I am not saying you need to lose a few… branches. 

I am just pointing out that sometimes in an individual’s life, just as in a church’s, there is a need to get back on task, to refocus, to make sure that what we are doing is actually what we are supposed to be doing.
Producing fruit! 

And that fruit, according to the Apostle Paul in Galatians, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.