Renewed Life – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Acts 8:26-40
John 15:1-8

Glorious spring is here with green popping up everywhere. Trees bud and flower with abundant, renewed life. Jesus describes himself as the true vine, us as branches, and God as the vine grower. Abide with me, Jesus says. Dwell, remain, stay connected to receive life from me. “Every branch that bears fruit [my Father] prunes to make it bear more fruit.” Pruning indeed helps bear fruit. It’s letting go in order to live.

Here’s what I was taught to look for when pruning trees. First, water sprouts, new young growth often all over a tree’s trunk and major branches. Second, branches touching or crossing each other. Third, anything growing backward toward the trunk instead of out. Fourth, branches that are actually dead. In all this, clear the center trunk, encouraging outward angled growth with space for each branch to grow.

Pruning lets go what is alive but not growing in a helpful direction. Pruning lets go what is dead but still taking up space. Pruning lets a tree more fully live and bear more fruit. Letting go is hard on trees and in our lives, yet key to living well. We Brothers say in our Rule of Life: “… we are to accept every experience which requires us to let go as an opportunity for Christ to bring us through death into life.”[i]

How might your life need some pruning? Consider the trees. Water sprouts take valuable nutrients from mature branches and scatter them in all directions. Are you preoccupied? Distracted by things that really aren’t worthy of your attention?

There’s a problem when branches cross each other. They push and block. Is there something in your life that’s at cross purposes? A place where you need to make a choice: choose one and let go of the other?

Perhaps something is heading backward toward the trunk. Is there something in you that’s trying to go back in a way that hinders moving forward? Maybe a fear of taking risks into the future and a grasping back to the past?

Sometimes whole branches are in the way because they’re dead yet hanging on in place. Is there something dead in you? Perhaps when alive it was really good and nourishing: a relationship, job, or ability.         Now, for whatever reason, it’s dead, now in the realm of memory, which is fine to treasure. But are you clinging?

Maybe you have something that’s not dead, but it’s deadly, harmful, hurting, eating you up: an unaddressed behavior or addiction, a secret, a hatred or self-loathing? We usually need another’s help to face such problems.

Do any of these ring true for you? A preoccupation or priority conflict? Something heading backward? Already dead or deadly? Even the knowing, the awareness of need, is a sing of God already at work in us. We can’t prune ourselves. It’s God’s action and our cooperation. Companions help. As you see new growth, look for our loving Gardener who comes to prune.

Delighting in the beauty of new growth this spring, I notice what could or has been pruned.

I also notice surprising, amazing life, buds on trees fallen down and trees cut back to stumps.

The Book of Job says: “…there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.”[ii]

Water refreshes and restores even those cut down, having lost much. We read this text on Holy Saturday face-first with death and waiting. Like water to parched lips, soil, and root, the Spirit brings life amid despair, loss, and death. God sends the Spirit to create, renew, and heal. Psalm 104 says: “You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; and so you renew the face of the earth.”[iii] Sent by the Spirit, Philip goes to the excluded Ethiopian eunuch, explains the scripture, shares the Good News of Jesus and baptizes him, renewing with welcome.

What for you is a tree cut down? What is barren or empty? Our Easter hope is that God hears and comes, acting with love in these places. Cry out your need. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Seeing the beauty and abundance of new life this spring, hang onto Jesus, the true vine, and attend to God’s gifts both of water and pruning, so that we may live, bear fruit, and share renewed life.

[i] “Holy Death,” SSJE Rule of Life

[ii] Job 14:7-9. I recommend Elizabeth Goudge’s novel The Scent of Water.

[iii] Psalm 104:31

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