I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
– John 15:1-4
“If your life is producing only a whine, instead of the wine, then ruthlessly kick it out. It is definitely a crime for a Christian to be weak in God’s strength.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
We must become weak to become strong. In Physical Education, we break down the muscle to build stronger muscle. In Christianity, to admit that we cannot go forward on our own, we must rely upon God. We must admit our inability, our weakness, in order to get God’s strength.
When we first moved to Karlsruhe, Germany in August, my first ‘Hail and Farewell’ meeting was in September. All of us officers in the battalion and our wives took a bus ride to Bad Durkheim for the wine festival, the largest festival of its kind in the world. Bad Durkheim is at the northern end of the Weinstrasse (wine street or road), while the southern end is just across the Rhein River from Karlsruhe. It was an eye-opening experience. Most wineries along the Weinstrasse gave you a free sip of wine and a cracker to cleanse the pallet before tasting something else. At the wine festival, you pay for the wine, but you get it in a half liter glass (a smidgen more than a pint). They also sold these silly little toy hammers; the hammer heads are bellows that blow whistles. When we went into the wine hall to hopefully sit down and listen to the band, the standard German Oompah band, we heard the usual Oompahpah of the ¾ musical time signature, accentuated by the tuba’s low tones, but there was a corresponding high tone. Everyone seated at the tables (no room for us to sit), drinking wine and eating wurst, were also holding their hammers. As the ‘Oom’ sounded, they reached across the table and hit the total stranger’s forehead with their hammer causing a high pitched “tweet.” To accompany the tuba for the ‘pahpah,’ they smacked their own forehead with the other side of the hammer to get a slightly lower, but still high pitched, “tweet, tweet.” Between songs, they laughed, ate, and drank more wine. It was time for the harvest and for celebration.
But to have a bountiful harvest, we must endure the pruning.
We want the wine, but we may not like the price.
The act of pruning the branch breaks the mode of the branch, or what the branch is determined to do at that point. The branch has quit producing fruit. It is now in growth mode. If left in that mode without pruning, it will make beautiful branch stems and leaves, but it will forget its purpose, to produce fruit. It must be pruned.
What Chambers is talking about has nothing to do with our strength, but God’s strength within us.
When we get pruned, we don’t like it. We whine. But when does the whine end and the wine begin? When we realize what God meant when He pruned us. What was thought to be something bad in our lives resulted in good for us and good for God’s kingdom.
When I mention the ‘whines’ of my life, I am thinking of how God has pruned me to make me what I am. It is no longer a ‘whine,’ but a rejoicing that God thinks that I still have a few more years of fruit bearing in me.
May we all look forward to the next year’s wine harvest. May we celebrate the harvest, praising God, and maybe even banging a toy hammer to the Oompah beat.
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone.