Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
In the season of Lent, we are looking at the benefits of pruning our lives to better eat, share and serve.
Every time I walk towards my front door, they are starring me in the face. I know that it needs to be done but what if I don’t do it right? What if I do something wrong? Logically, I know that it makes them healthier and more gorgeous. I know that it is for their good. I know that it doesn’t hurt them.
My roses need to be pruned. They are out of control and not as vibrant as they could be if I just pruned.
If I step into that moment, the plant will thrive beyond what I can imagine but there is fear behind what I will cut off. It seems like the opposite direction of allowing a plant to grow and yet everything about roses says that you need to prune them to be healthy. And the same goes for things in the church. Sometimes things get unruly and for the health of the overall church and community, pruning may need to happen. Sometimes we have to refocus our energy, much like plants in order to have the healthiest ministries possible.
But what holds us back from wanting to prune? Our scriptures today give us insight into what might be holding us back in letting the whole thrive. Sometimes we carry around fear instead of remembering that God is love. The writer of 1 John is a firm believer that if we believe that God is perfect love and respond as such, instead out of our very human fears, we will approach God with confidence and health. Our ministries will thrive because there is only room for love instead of fear. God’s love is grown for new possibly. Out of pruning, we will find grounds for new growth.
That is much easier said than done but we have to realize that fear only produces death while love produces life. In our gospel lesson, Jesus is thrown out into the desert to confront just those fears and realize that love wins overall because God is love. God is pruning Jesus back in essence to restore ministry.
It seems counterintuitive but we have to let go, to be willing to face our fears, and counteract in love in order to grow even more. During this season of Lent, we will need to ask our community, what must we prune back in order to continue to grow? What fears must we cast aside about this in order to offer more love?
Quotes for the Week
“As the gardener, by severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree into one or two vigorous limbs, so should you stop off your miscellaneous activity and concentrate your force on one or a few points.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Give a lot, expect a lot, and if you don’t get it, prune.” Thomas J. Peters
“I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.”
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie
“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” Marianne Williamson
1 John 4:17-19 (Message)
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. God loved us first.
Mark 1:9-15 (Message)
At this time, Jesus came fromNazarethin Galilee and was baptized by John in theJordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”
At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.
After John was arrested, Jesus went toGalileepreaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”
Questions for the Week
What keeps you from letting go?
What fear holds you back?
What might need pruning in your own life this season?