I am the Vine, you are the branches

Jeannie and I had a special treat last Saturday.  Marianne and Annette Hajdú and their father and mother, Tibor and Rita, invited us to their home in the village of Dorogháza.  Marianne is studying wine culture in university and springtime means it’s time to prune the vines.  So after a wonderful lunch we were off to learn how to prune in her grandfather’s backyard vineyard.  (You can see a video of our lesson at http://gallery.me.com/ronseck/100021)

Some things really stand out from their lessons:

1. Jesus really understood how to prune vines and why it was necessary.  He probably did a good amount of it himself.

2. Vine dressing is a perfect metaphor for our relationship with Jesus and His relationship with His Father. John 15.

3. Energy — Several times Marianne and her grandfather used that word to describe the life-force that flows from the roots through the vine and into the branches.  Jesus in John 15 used a similar word — dynamos — from which we get “power” and “ability.” Just as the energy for the branches to bear fruit comes from the vine, our ability, power, energy to produce fruit comes from Jesus.

4.  The goal is to produce fruit.  The vinedresser does not hesitate to lop off branches that are dead.  But he is just as quick to snip off branches that did not produce any fruit last year.  It is no good wasting energy.  Even though these branches were leafy, green and healthy looking last summer, they were taking up energy that could otherwise have been used to produce grapes.  They will not produce grapes this year either, so off they come.

5.  Even the fruit-producing branches are severely pruned and cleaned off.  Not being a vine dresser, I thought that Marianne and her grandfather would have been happy to let the nice, long, fruit-producing branches grow even longer and produce fruit this summer.  But it’s all about the wise use of the energy.  Marianne showed me that I needed to count off the first three buds from where the good, fruit-prodcing branch came out of the vine and then cut off the rest of the branch!  Often I was cutting off several feet of branch!  She explained that in this way the greatest amount of energy went into fruit-producing and the least was spent on producing leaves and wood.  No wonder Jesus said that “every branch in me that bears fruit, he prunes it that it will produce more fruit.”  Some of us have experienced a certain amount of fruit in our lives for Jesus only to go through a time of severe pruning.  We think that Jesus has turned His back on us.  That is not the case.  He is pruning us back so that we are not wasting His energy that is flowing through us on the production of flashy wood and leaves.  Instead it goes into greater fruit production.  Right now I am thinking of Steve and Susan Dettloff and their son Mike.  Steve was one of the best witnesses for Christ at Fellowship Chapel where I pastored.  Each Alpha Course he always had a new person to bring because of his demonstration of Christ’s love.  A year and a half ago, Steve received a severe closed-head injury in an automobile accident.  For the longest time we did not know whether he would survive and, if he did, whether he would live out the rest of his life in a vegetative state.  His wife Susan had already faced a similar challenge to this once in her life.  She had raised a daughter with multiple birth defects.  Would she have the strength and fortitude to go through this trial once again?  Mike, their son, was suddenly facing the same trauma that had taken his sister from him.  Here was a family being severely pruned.  But the greater fruit is already budding, flowering and growing.  Susan has had to be a Mama Bear at times, but she finds new strength and endurance, patience and love, each day from the Lord.  This is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and energy flowing through her.  The rest of us are watching, learning and praising God.  Steve’s recovery has been slow, steady and miraculous.  He even sent me a personal e-mail last week!  His testimony constantly bears fruit as he gives glory to God.  Mike has been given the grace to cope and mature.  This pruning has produced greater fruit in and through all of their lives.  Maybe we won’t all be pruned after the third bud, like the Dettloffs, but if we are fruit producers, we need to expect some pruning to produce even more — because it’s about producing fruit and giving glory to God through it.

6. The pruning shears are sharp.  Just one snip and the branch is cut in two.  Jesus uses the sharp pruning shears of his word to clean us.  “Now you are clean through the word I have spoken to you.”  It is not so much the circumstances that prune us as it is Jesus’ perfect words about how to respond to the circumstances.  It’s His words that clean off the undesirable actions and reactions and replace them with the fruits of godliness in His fruit-bearing branches.

7. There is a right way to prune and a wrong way.  After the third bud you must cut the branch at the correct angle so that the sap cannot flow out of the vine and back over the bud.  A spring freeze will kill a soaked bud and there will be no fruit.  God knows just how to prune us so that we bear fruit.  We are in the expert hands of the Vine dresser.

Do you see any other lessons as you watch the video?  Be sure to share them with me at our e-mailing address.

Thank you to the Hajdú for a wonderful afternoon.

Ron and Jeannie

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