The "Jesus word" I explored today was "Vine." In John 15, Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." One of the writers who commented on the opening verses of this chapter of John discussed the somewhat violent imagery of God pruning the branches. He compared this to other violent images of God, such as God being like a "refiner's fire" or a potter who smashes a vessel in order to reshape it into a better vessel or a father who must discipline his children. I thought of myself, when I must cut back shrubbery in our yard. Pruning is a job I don't like doing, so I tend to hack away until the shrubs are beaten into submission, so to speak. This is not the image I see in the idea of God's pruning. Rather, I see the image of the gardener who enjoys the work, lovingly and gently cutting the branches so that the shape of the plant is more pleasing to the eye, the branches are all receiving the needed light, and the fruit or blossoms are more bountiful. For me, the image of God as the gardener pruning is a gentle, loving image, though I understand the ideas the priest in the link above is conveying, and I found his commentary to be thought-provoking.
As I considered the imagery of this parable of Jesus, I thought about this vine of which Jesus speaks. The vine is anchored in the ground, carrying nourishment to all the branches, giving life to the branches. Independent of the vine, the branches cannot survive. The vine and its branches are an organic whole. Yet the vine and its branches do not grow willy-nilly. They are being trained by a master gardener who knows just when and where to prune to insure the maximum beauty, growth, and production of fruit for the vine.
The idea that, as disciples, we share in the work of ministry that Jesus began just as the branches bear the fruit of the vine is a beautiful, yet frightening, image. It places a great responsibility on those who would be Jesus' followers. Still, we can have faith that there is One who is at work to equip us for the ministry to which we are called, One who is shaping us and transforming us into something more beautiful and fruitful with the action of the pruning shears, causing us to bear that fruit which brings us into greater harmony with each other and with God. This pruning is not the hacking of a gardener who is rushing to be done with a distasteful task, but rather that of a gardener who loves the work and does it with care and compassion. I pray that I will be open to the transforming actions of the Master Gardener.