Broken Limbs and New Life

April 18, 2016

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.   —John 15:1-8

The house which Debbie and I have called home for the last eight years is blessed by having a huge pine tree standing out front.  This pine tree is home to a couple of squirrels and many birds during the summer months and provides us with great shade and degree of privacy from the rest of the neighborhood.  And although the detritus of the squirrels’ meals is sometimes annoying, having to rake up the pine straw after a major windstorm is back-breaking and my inevitably bumping my head on the lower limbs when mowing underneath it is a pain; the many benefits and the general ambiance of the tree makes the minor annoyances worth it.

And so, when the heavy snow of two weeks ago caused the large boughs of the lower limbs to bow down to the ground, I became concerned.  I went around and knocked the snow off to allow the limbs to spring back up and not be in danger of breaking from the heavy weight.

But I missed one.

And after the snow melted, this particular limb not only did not spring back to the heavens, but it seemed to droop even lower than it had with the snow weighing it down.  And of course, when I examined it, I learned that the limb had split half way through from that weight.  Oh, it might survive the summer if I let it be, but in the end, you know what’s going to happen.

Because of the split, the life -giving sap will not be able to make it out to the needles and smaller branches on the ends of the bough and they will eventually die.  The area around the wound will begin to dry and harden, becoming brittle and be in danger of breaking completely and coming down unexpectedly.  Oh, perhaps one could splint the branch to prevent some of this, but arborists suggest that such measures rarely work.  The branch will always be weak and the wound susceptible to insect damage and rot.

So, later today, I will get out the pruning saw and take that limb out.  Oh, the tree won’t look quite right for a while, but in the end, it is for the best.  Eventually, a new limb will sucker and grow out.  But without the life-giving flow of the sap, the limb simply cannot survive and it must be cut out before it become a danger.  While the loss of one branch is sad, it is better to lose the branch than the whole tree for lack of attention.

Jesus of course used this idea to remind us that without His Spirit flowing through us and into all areas of our life we too will dry up and die spiritually.  We too need the life-giving flow from the root, the vine, the trunk of the plant to help us survive.  And yet too often, we want to become the vine ourselves, not allowing Christ into all the areas of our life.  We keep His Life-giving Spirit from those areas that we deem either too important or not important enough to concern Him.   And then those areas of our life begin to fester and become a cancer to other areas of our life and life as a whole just doesn’t seem as vital or as fresh as it once did.  It is because we have cut off the life-giving flow and areas of our life have died, yet we have not pruned them from our life.

It is a simple concept, but difficult to live out.  We have to stay rooted in Christ in all areas of our life to have the Abundant Life that He alone gives.  That means from time to time we will need to prune things from our life, but pruning is never easy.  We hope that somehow those dead areas will magically come back to life.  Yet when we ignore them, when we don’t prune these areas from our life, we end up endangering other areas…we fail to give our life the opportunity to put out new limbs and to bear the fruit that gives new life…life abundant.

Prayer:  Lord, help me to stay connected to you no matter what storms may come.  Let me seek you in times of abundance and drought.  Be my source and my center always.  Amen.

Steve 2014

Reverend Dr. Steve Van Ostran

Executive Minister


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