A message shared on Sunday April 29th, 2018
One of my first jobs as a young person was working in Beppie’s Greenhouse. Beppie was in her late sixties and had leather skin, a thick Dutch accent and a raspy voice from the fact that she smoked more cigarettes than any person I ever saw.
I loved the hours I spent in her hot little greenhouse. The smells were intense and the fact that it was always changing drew me. Beppie had strong opinions and an infectious chortle and between deep puffs she would take her stubby fingers and show me how to pinch the petunias. Rows and rows of petunias of many colors on shelves, in small plastic families of six. You who are gardening buffs know that this process of removing old flowers is called deadheading. And what it’s really about is, making room… for a new bloom.
This beautiful teaching we heard from the Gospel of John begins by referring to something like spiritual deadheading, “remove every branch in me that bears no fruit…” “Abide in me as I abide in you…”
This is something like a koan for us, a paradox to be meditated upon. “Abide in me as I abide in you…”
Questions arise: What does it mean for us to be deeply connected to the Source, the Divine/God or whatever name you have for the Holy?
In a world that tells us achieving and consuming will get us what we want, what truly will allow fruit in our lives?
We are told and sold the idea that fruit means individual fortune and maybe fame, but the Christian tradition says that fruit is something else. In the book of Galations we learn that fruit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Here in the Gospel of John we learn that fruit is not related to the health or wealth of an individual, but fruit is about role and relationship to the other parts. Interconnection and relationality – the wellbeing of the branches are related to the vine, the thriving of one part is related to the thriving of another. Fruits in our lives come from interwovenness with God and one another. The images “ emphasize the communal and relational nature of faith… challenging all of us whose lives have been constructed largely on the modern idea of the sovereign individual;” 
And here’s the other thing, the truth that boldly shows up here: there is no hiding from the fact that some things must fall away and change forms in order for the new to break through. “Two aspects of God’s created world are held together- bearing fruit and being pruned.” “Abide in me as I abide in you…” Good living needs deadheading.
And as our community embarks upon a new adventure, it is clear to me that we must all be willing to be pruned, not our selves, but rather some of the stories we tell.
What I mean by this is that in order to welcome the kind of fruit in our lives and in this community, we must let old things stories fall away, a sort of pruning about what we say about aloud about who we are.
Just last week I was setting up the sound system and the keyboard and I realized I wasn’t sure how to complete the last step. I called Bob, I texted Jeremy, I breathed, I figured it out! Now I have never seen myself as an Audio Visual expert, it’s a low bar for ministers, so maybe I am an A/V expert among religious professionals? But when I came home to share how it went, Jeremy said, “You didn’t freak out!” You set it up and did some trouble shooting and you made it work! I am now going to tell a different story about myself. I am an AV whiz!
And I think that in order of this congregation to keep growing and meeting the spiritual hunger of those who come through our doors, we need to some pruning of the stories we tell.
Because it wasn’t so long ago that I heard someone say: We aren’t a singing congregation and I now I think maybe that’s a story that needs to be pruned.
And it wasn’t long ago that I heard someone say: We don’t need guest cards because we don’t have guests and now I think maybe’s that’s a story that needs to be deadheaded
And I know all of the stories I tell in my head or to others about myself- maybe some of them have long since withered and stop bearing fruit in my life. We all hold these kinds of stories about how we are not enough or stories about who we once were, but aren’t any more. Am I right? What stories do you tell about yourself that need to be pruned? What stories do we tell about this community that need to wither and die? How can we make room for what wants to be?
Branches are removed, allowed to wither,… but this is not the end. The withering is a compost for what is yet to spring forth. It is a reshuffling of material and spiritual matter, allowing new possibilities to unfold.
One of the meanings for the Greek root for ‘abide’ meno is “holding out.” Perhaps when we are deeply connected to the Spirit and to one another, when we are abiding, we are able to hold out and hold fast and feel the fruit of joy, even through a good pruning.
Beloved ones, let us “remove every branch, take every story we tell about ourselves that bears no fruit and let it die…” sure there is always room… for a new bloom.
Abide in Love as it abides in you…
(The congregation was invited to write down stories that need to be pruned on a notecard…)
 Stephen Cooper in Feasting on the Word Fifth Sunday of Easter; John 15:1-8, Theological Perspective
 Nancy Blakely in Feasting on the Word Fifth Sunday of Easter, John 15:1-8, Pastoral Perspective