April 29, 2021
for Sunday, May 2
1 John 4:7-21
Pastor Jonathan Deibler, Dean, Genesee Finger Lakes Conference
My grandmother had a sizeable orchard in part of an old pasture. She had spent decades taking care of it on her own. However, by the time I was in high school she had aged to the point where she couldn't keep up. My parents began to volunteer me to help. I didn't mind for the most part. But the time my parents told me they had volunteered me to spend an entire upcoming Saturday to help prune the apple trees I was not pleased! I liked my grandmother and all, but what teenage boy wants to spend a whole Saturday helping an old woman prune trees!?!
The day arrived and my grandmother took me to the first of the trees to be pruned. I hadn't pruned before, so she gave me some basic instructions. She then walked away to work elsewhere. With my bad attitude firmly intact I decided to take out my frustration on this tree. I would mutilate it instead of pruning it! I knew I would get some satisfaction from the shock in her face when she saw what I had done to one of her precious trees. I proceeded to cut and hack away wildly. Branch after branch fell to the ground. With a step ladder to help I cut off low branches and high branches. I chopped the entire top of the tree away. By the time I was done more of the tree was on the ground than was left standing.
My grandmother returned. I looked at her intently to see her reaction. She shook her head. I was satisfied! Damage done! And then she said, "You didn't cut enough away."
WHAT!?! NOT ENOUGH!!!
She pointed out place after place where additional branches needed to go. She declared that even a couple of the largest branches should go. By the time she was satisfied all that was left was a handful of crooked ugly stumps of branches. Only now was the tree properly pruned. Only now was the tree truly capable of maximum production.
I live in the Finger Lakes area. There are orchards and vineyards everywhere. In harvest season they are lush with leaves and heavily laden with fruit. But when it is pruning season those trees and vines look like a war zone. The vines are bare. The trees look like mutilated stumps. All the lushness is gone.
The words of John 15:1-2 may sound poetic to us, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit." But these are actually drastic words. Pretty apple trees and pretty grapevines might look good in pictures. But they are worthless. Severely pruned ones bear much fruit.
I think many Christians want their lives of faith to be pretty. They want faith to be easy and comfortable. They want lives that are snug, cozy, and predictable. No pruning happens. Unsurprisingly, no fruit is grown either.
Many Christians want their churches to be pretty too. Literally pretty, as in buildings that are well maintained; and also figuratively pretty, as in maintaining traditions and rituals that feel nice. No pruning happens. No fruit is grown either.
I encourage every person and every congregation to do some serious pruning. If you are not regularly examining why you are doing what you are doing then you are not pruning. Pruning is a regular occurrence in the fruit industry. And it is harsh. That which does not produce is removed and replaced with something that will produce. That which is already productive is pruned heavily. Heavy pruning is the only way to keep productivity. So even your church's most successful programs and ministries must regularly be examined and pruned. That is the only way they will stay productive.
I proceeded to prune my grandmother's trees as per her instructions. It turned out that for the prior few years she had not been able to prune as severely as she had wished. That summer the trees bore so many apples she needed to prop up the branches to hold the weight of all the fruit. We had apples for eating, apples for applesauce, apples for pies, and apples for cider.
Those who dare to prune (or perhaps I should say, "allow God to prune") will find God's abundance coming upon them. They will bear much fruit. While we are saved by grace and not by works, there is nothing more satisfying than participating in God's abundant harvest!
[Jesus said:] 1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2
He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
• For our community of faith as we seek to do God’s work in the world.
• For those in our congregation and community who suffer silently with illness, financial burdens, and family obligation.
• For people affected by coronavirus, their families, essential workers, doctors, nurses, aides, those working in nursing homes, etc.
• For victims of wildfires, flooding and earthquakes.
• For Gene Heil, Pastor Ivy Gauvin, Karen Johnson, Roy Pihl, George and Janet Balcom, Beverly Klang, Trudy Fetzner, Mabel Tranum, Thom Shagla, Matt Isaacson, Dave Bentley, Alice Swartz, Skip Anderson, Jim Sheehy, Karen Brown, Dan Burns, Beth Gardner, Barb Mattern, Joseph Gauvin, Emerson Allaby, Sarah Van Staalduinen, and Dick Starks. For those serving in the military and law enforcement and their families, including Ben Wickerham and Jeffrey Clauson, those caught up in violence and war who have no safe home in which to live.
• For all children, that the love of Christ may reach them through all of us who have resources to love, protect, pray and provide for them.
• For the ELCZ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe and ELCZa Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia.
Names will remain of the Prayer List for a month - at which
time it will be taken off unless, or course, there is still a continued need
for our prayers and we’re asked to keep the name on.
Spring Work Day
Saturday May 8th 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Adult Bible Study
We will not be holding the new Bible Study today May 2nd. Join us next week for the Bible Study of Hannah in the book of Samuel, focusing on how God uses us in chaos and challenge. It is titled “The Year that Changed the World” by “The Potter House” Please call Sarah if you have any questions - 450-2986.
***While Pastor Ivy is out recuperating, you can contact Pastor Heather Allport-Cohoon if there is a need for pastoral care. She can be reached at 716-708-6466.
***5 & 2 ministry - We continuously collect food items for the 5 & 2 Ministry. Bring your donations and place in the black bin in church narthex. Lists detailing items needed are also available in the narthex. Monetary donations welcome! Contact Gale-Svenson-Campbell for details .
***ONLINE GIVING now available at St. Timothy for Debit/Credit cards. 3 ways to give:
- Go directly to our website at
- Use our QR code with the QR reader on your smartphone
- Download the app ‘GivePlus Church’. Create an account.
For further information, see Kathy Carlson on Sundays or call