Pruning the vine

Pruning the vine

1 John 3:18-24 & John 15:1-8

I have to tell you, I am excited to see the fruits that this family will produce. Because I think this rosebush that is Saint Anselm, Is going to be spectacular.

[automatically transcribed]

In the name of the father and of the son of the Holy Spirit Amen Please sit.

I think this is one of those gospel readings and some scripture in Acts and in our second reading in 1 John, that we hear so regularly that we we kind of lose lose what it may mean practically in our lives. Now, last week, I said to you that faith without action is dead. And I’m going to pull that apart a little bit for you. And it’s pulled apart because we talk about we talk about pruning and that by being pruned, you will bear more fruit. And I think the best way I can explain that is to tell you about what happened when my faith was just something that happened on a Sunday. I grew up I grew up with a grandmother in church and a grandmother in chapel. And so we go to church in the morning and chapel in the evening.

And that’s where my faith happened. And that was it. That’s where it stayed. My faith was in was in the building. It was it was in the songs. It was it was in Sunday school. About the only time my faith broke out of that was a Christmas when at chapel we used to make Advent wreaths for the old people. It’s the only time my faith would break out beyond the confines of the building. And I never thought there was anything wrong with that.

And that’s how my faith persisted. It was like my faith lived in a jar. And on a Sunday I would get the jar down from the shelf and I would open it up. And then on the end of Sunday, I’d put my faith back in the jar and it would go back up on the shelf.

Now, the difficulty with that kind of faith is you can forget that the jar is on the shelf, and if you move around a lot and you’re busy and you go out into the world like I did and I moved to Australia and I moved and I lived in the US and I was with people who didn’t believe in God, all of a sudden my jaw that had my faith in it got harder for me to reach.

And in the end, I just stopped reaching for it. And so when I was in Australia, I very arrogantly declared that I didn’t believe in God anymore, what a daft thing for someone to believe in. And I explored Buddhism and all sorts of other things, and when I went to San Francisco, I completely lost my faith. And it was only when I came back to England and the parish church was there in the little village that we were living in, that I saw that jar again.

And I was sat meditating in the living room one day, cross-legged, I know it’s hard to imagine, but I could do the cross legged thing and sit with the hands on the knees. And I was meditating. And I had a realisation that I wasn’t meditating, that what I was doing was praying, and that’s what I had been doing this whole time, I hadn’t lost my faith. God had not walked away from me. God had always been with me.

But I packed him up in a little jar and put him on a shelf and forgotten about him. And all I’d done for the next two years was to try and find a way back to God, not realising that I packed him up so tightly in that jar that I couldn’t reach him anymore. And so I reached up for the jar and it toppled off the shelf and it smashed into bits. And my faith kind of lay open before me, and I had to pick it back up and put it back together, and for the first time I asked questions about my faith and I asked questions about my relationship with God.

And my faith was not something that came down on a Sunday and got dusted off and I took it to church. My faith was now something that was in my whole life. I did not have to reach for it. It was just there.

That was my pruning. That journey where I said I didn’t believe in God anymore was my pruning. That was what God was doing. He was helping me break my faith out of that jar on the shelf on a Sunday morning into something that existed in my everyday life.

And my gosh. What a change when that happened. What a change. Catherine became pregnant with Edmund, I’ll be told off for mentioning Edmund later on at home, but Catherine became pregnant with Edmund. My daily life was one that was full of of love and seeing the love in other people around me, I started questioning decisions I had made about my career 10 years previously. I started questioning how I existed in the world and how God could work through me.

So I began that process of what we call discernment to see what it was that God wanted me to do with my life. Now, we all know that some rose bushes require rather more severe pruning than others. I think I was an unruly rosebush that needed pruning right back down to the floor. And when I was pruned right back down to the floor, that faith grew anew and bigger and more wonderful than it was before.

The point of me telling you all of this and sharing this story with you is to say that faith is not something that you can pack up and just live on a Sunday.

It is something that exists in your whole life. But it is also to say that your doubts, that your difficulties, that you are hardship with your faith, that the journey that you are on may be difficult and hard. But that is part of God’s process of helping you understand your faith better, and if you are open to that pruning, if you are open to that difficulty, if you are open to those questions and you engage with them. Then your faith can break out and flourish and grow.

And of course, none of us are the same, my pruning, I had to be pruned right down to the floor, I had to travel around the world to discover my faith. But I know others of you who’ve had the gentlest of pruning in your life and you have produced the most beautiful fruit, the most beautiful flowers through your faith. And so just because you see one person doubts being a lot less than yours doesn’t mean that that pruning is any less or more important, that your journey with God is any less or more important.

We all know that we have to look after our plants, roses, vines in different ways. But but and this is the vital thing. What we do have to do, is be open to that pruning. We have to be open to God being in our lives, to us questioning, to us, having doubts, to us exploring what our faith means, and that’s scary. Because it might mean that the jar that you keep your faith in may fall to the floor and smash.

So my message to you today is to say, do not be afraid of that. Do not be afraid of your doubts and questioning, because God will pick you up. God will sweep you up. God will take you into his arms, and even though you may not recognise it at the time. Your faith will be stronger because of it, your relationship with Jesus Christ will be stronger because of it, your daily life will be more infused with the life of Jesus Christ than it was before.

And that’s why we’re a family. That’s why we come together on Sundays. That’s why we come to daily prayer. And that is why we will soon have Bible study. That is why we have house groups, because we are vulnerable in that brokenness. We are vulnerable when that jar of faith smashes. We are vulnerable when we are pruned. But we are surrounded by people who have experienced it. We are surrounded by people who love us. We are surrounded by people who, in their baptismal vows, we made at Easter promised to care for you in your faith.

So God will pick you up. But so will your brothers and sisters here in Saint Anselm. So will your brothers and sisters here who care for you and love you.

I have to tell you, I am excited to see the fruits that this family will produce. Because I think this rosebush that is Saint Anselm, Is going to be spectacular.