I am a lousy gardener. Some people have a green thumb and can turn deserts into oases. I can do the exact opposite. My mother, who has a green thumb, tried to teach me when I was younger. I succeeded in drowning plants with too much water or not planting them at the right depth and killing the roots or some other means of executing poor defenseless flowers. After a while, I decided the best way to help was digging rows and flower beds. It turns out, I was pretty good at making holes in the ground.
My wife, who also has a green thumb, is also good with making things grow. While I was slaving away in the libraries of seminary, she turned the little rows of dirt around our apartment in a veritable garden. She grew flowers, vegetables, and even managed to grow some miniature corn rows. She did manage to create one interesting plant though. I call it the meloncumber. She was just getting started with gardening at the seminary and planted some cucumber plants too close to some melon plants. They managed to cross pollinate and we had melons that were white inside and tasted bitter and cucumbers that were orange inside and tasted sweet.
Jesus talks a bit about gardening in John 15. He says, “I am the vine, and my father is the vineyard keeper” or put another way, I am the main plant and God is gardener. He goes on to talk about how God goes about taking care of the plant and the branches connected to it (that’s us). When the branches are growing well, they get pruned, shaped, trimmed back so they can grow well. Those that grow well produce fruit. When they don’t grow well, don’t produce fruit, are cut off.
I have seen many preachers turn this into a heaven/hell kind of thing: be in Jesus or be cut off and throw into hell. I don’t think that’s the best way to look at this. I think a better way is to see us being connected to Jesus through the Spirit, nourished and growing. Or being disconnected from the Spirit and therefore Jesus and his Way and dying spiritually because of it. If we remain and Jesus and seek to live in the Way he demonstrated, our ideas and ideals will align with his and we will seek the things he sought. Or to put it another way, if we remain in Jesus, when we ask for the things we need, we will get them because we will ask for the right things. This will lead to us producing good fruit, good works that show others how great it is to live the Jesus Way of Life and prove that we are truly those who follow Jesus.
The question for us becomes are we really living in such a way as to be pruned and nurtured by the Spirit of God rather than cut off from God? What do we need to change in our lives, our way of relating to God and neighbor to make sure we stay connected? How can we be reshaped to reflect the life and Way of Jesus?