|Detail of the "Te Deum Polyptych" Edward Riojas. (Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.)|
Copyright © Edward Riojas
One of my favorite images from the “Te Deum Polyptych,” hanging in the sanctuary of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Mich., is a small vignette of Christ pruning a cruciform vine. At first blush, it seems a nice picture of Jesus doing a bit of gardening. His grape varieties must be world class. His orchids are probably exquisite, as well. If He is the Good Shepherd and if He is the Great Physician, then certainly He is the quintessential Gardener.
There is, however, a little pile of burning branches. Some have risen their voices in recent days, suggesting that our Lord, through global events, is getting rid of the dead and decaying rot; that He is doling out Divine justice on a whole boatload of national sin. Perhaps. We certainly deserve it, not only nationally, but also individually.
But every gardener worth his salt knows that there is more to pruning. On occasion, it becomes necessary to prune healthy, leafy branches – even fruit-producing branches. This may, during these days, manifest itself in reducing our access to church, in severely limiting availability of the Divine Service, and in eliminating other things that are beneficial to us.
There is no such thing as a spiteful gardener. As with earthly gardeners, our Gardner knows what He is doing. The Lord is taking the brokenness of the world and using it to our advantage. He is doing this out of His great love for us.
Pruning is done to make a plant more robust and more healthy. It must be done periodically to make it grow in strength. Once we, the Church, have been surgically pruned, just see how much more we will thirst for the life-giving waters of our Lord! See how we will raise our heads and strain toward the saving light of the Word! Our Lord knows that we will not survive in the partial shade of ignorance and apathy; He knows we can only thrive in the full brilliance of the Son.
So take heart. The Lord is tending to our needs, He is continuing the Divine work begun when the Seed of Promise was planted in the Garden so very long ago, and it is for our eternal good.