Faithfulness and Fruitfulness:  Pruning the Plants

July 1, 2018                                                                       John 15: 1-17

We are continuing along in our summer series of Faithfulness and Fruitfulness… We started with tilling the ground of our old ways of measuring success.  Then we planted the seeds of ways to be mutually accountable.  We are moving today to consider how pruning is healthy and enables us to produce better fruit.  We had a fascinating discussion on Friday morning around the question of “What do you need to prune in your life?”  Some said my growing intolerance, my tone of voice, the clutter in my house.  Some said my impatience or eliminating some battles that are not worth fighting.  I am assuming we all have practices, habits, attitudes tangible items that could be pruned to make our lives healthier and more productive!  It is never a bad practice to take stock of where we are and what might need pruning!

Our focus this morning is more on us as a congregation, as a family of Christ gathered in this particular place at this particular time. If we are going to be evaluating our fruitfulness as a family of Christ, are there activities that need pruning around here?  Have we gotten burdened down by doing things just because we have always done them—tradition—or, on the flip side, just because someone has a great new idea and it sounds good?  When do you tell your pastor, “No, that is too much, we can’t add anything else to our plates right now?”  How do we decide which activities to prune and which activities need more space and attention to grow?  Where do we set limits so that we can be as fruitful as possible?

I have learned something from the Baltimore Orchard Project, which is helping us with our mini orchard on the grounds out by our offices.  It is the practice of thinning the fruit.  If you look carefully at our fruit trees, you will see that sometimes there are multiple fruitlets growing right together.  It looks productive, but none of them will be able to grow to maturity because the plant is not strong enough to support all of them.  When they are small, we need to remove some of the fruitlets, leaving plenty of space for one of them to grow. Continue reading

Faithfulness and Fruitfulness: Cultivating Ministry 2. Planting the Seed

Mark 4: 26-29 and Eccl. 3:1-3                                                 June 24, 2018

We continue today with our five week focus on cultivated ministry.  I am suggesting that we are the cultivators, the ones responsible for the quality of fruit produced in, through and from this gathered community of believers.  Last week we looked at the need to till the ground of our traditional ways of measuring our success—the counting of people and dollars.  I talked about the need to look instead at our productivity—that is the impact on the community inside and outside of these walls.  We heard again the parable of the soils, being reminded that the good soil which is able to produce abundant, healthy fruit is free of obstacles and is receptive to water and oxygen and sunlight and all the nutrients found underneath the surface.

This morning we are ready to look at planting the seeds. In a series of seedy stories in Mark,  Jesus told the parable of the farmer who planted the seeds and then left the growing to God.   I think it is crucial to recognize that the seeds would not have grown if they had not been planted.  For produce to be generated, there is a role for the planter of the seed and a role for the one who brings the miracle of growth and then a role for the harvester of the produce. God’s work depends on our work and our work depends on God’s work.  We are mutually accountable.

This is one piece of the larger idea of measuring our productivity, or fruitfulness– mutual accountability to one another and to God. Continue reading