ISSUES OF FAITH: Cut away what holds growth back

IT’S FEBRUARY AND time to begin pruning the vineyards in Eastern Washington where we get our grapes.

Wine vines are by nature nearly wild, even if “domesticated” like Cabernet Sauvignon or Riesling.

Anybody around here who has a grape vine knows what I mean.

Grapes grow uncontrollably and many a cute sprig from the nursery can take over an arbor in a few years and maybe with no grapes to show for its vigor — unless it is pruned.

In a commercial vineyard, pruning is essential.

As an example, long, now-dormant branches that grew last season might shade fruit this year if not removed.

More importantly, fruit quality is directly related to the amount of fruit each vine is allowed to produce.

With a trained eye and experience, each fruiting cane will be pruned to only two buds.

With more buds, the vine will produce more grapes, but each cluster will be smaller and not as flavorful — not a good result for making the best wine.

This year, the season of pruning and the Christian season of Lent overlap, and the purposes are similar.

Pruning is a paring back for better fruit.

Lent is traditionally a time to “give up” or pare back on something you really like in memory of the suffering of Jesus to come in 40 days. But it can also be a time to intentionally trim things that are keeping you from bearing better fruit.

In the Gospel of John in Chapter 15 (NIV), the author quotes Jesus saying: “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 so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Pruning sounds a bit painful if you are a vine, and metaphorically ourselves, but I came across a whimsical thought written by Margaret Wyllie that described pruning from the vine’s perspective.

Part of her muse goes like this:

But the gardener is so gentle and kind in the way he prunes. It sometimes make me laugh as he cuts away the dead wood, that I never even knew was there. He can see what stops my growth and understands why I can’t. He knows just the right way to cut away what needs to go and leave room and energy for the good branches to grow good fruit. I can get so worn down with the weight of dead branches.

I do urge you, when you’re called to take time out and be pruned, don’t hesitate. Just step aside, give yourself over to the master gardener and watch the fruit grow.

Lent or not, this should still be time for pruning plants and life.

Pruning in the garden for the plant’s health and to let the summer sunshine into the heart of the tree for the ripest of fruit. But even if you don’t have a garden, consider buying a pair of pruning clippers over Lent.

Keep them in view as a metaphor for what can be cut out of your life that will let you see the sun better. The sun is waiting to be let in, too.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Don Corson is an Ordained Deacon in the Lutheran Church (ELCA) and the winemaker for a local winery. He is also the minister for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Forks. His email is

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