He [the Father] removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. (John 15:2; NRSV)
In John chapter 15, Jesus uses the allegory of the vine and the branches to illustrate the relationship between the disciples and himself. The New Revised Standard Version indicates that each fruit bearing branch (each individual disciple) is "pruned" by the Father so that it might bear more fruit-- works that bear witness to God's Kingdom.
But is "prune" the best word here? The Greek word here is kathairo (καθαίρω) and refers more generally to clearing and in certain contexts cleansing. So, while it is true that pruning, cutting back, is a necessary part of the process of allowing a fruit-producing vine to bear more fruit, John appears to have in mind something more than simply cutting back a healthy branch in order to produce more; the gardener wants to clear away all the dead vegetation and the clutter that can strangle the branches as well.
Lent is a time for clearing away the clutter of our lives. To be sure there is a cutting back and cutting out involved. But so often our lives simply get cluttered in a way that the cares of this life, and the distractions of other endeavors slowly and surely strangle our commitment as followers of Jesus, We fail to produce the Kingdom fruit God expects of us.
Colossians 3:5 states, "Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)." Paul tells his readers to kill, to crucify anything that gets in the way of the new life in Jesus Christ. That not only involves cutting out the things that are earthly, but also the earthly things that in and of themselves may not be bad when kept in perspective; but when those latter earthly things are given too much time and space and nurture to grow, they can choke the "things that are from above" (Colossians 3:2) in our lives (Colossians 3:12-17).
During Lent we must clear away the "earthly" clutter of our lives, that our lives might flourish for the sake of Christ and the Good News he offers.
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