The little plum tree in our back yard outdid herself this year. Hundreds and hundreds of flowers in the early spring yielded thousands of little green plums. The birds and the squirrels loved them even before they began to ripen.
Spring rains and warm sunlight grew the little green plums. The weight of them became heavier and heavier on the branches of the little tree, so heavy the branches sagged to the ground under it all. The ripening of the plums began and I would like to think the little tree was glad to see her fruit grow and redden in the sunlight. There were plums ready to pick this past weekend. Plump and juicy, the fruit dripped down our fingers as we bit into each delicious one.
We raced the squirrels to see who would get the most. There were plenty to go around. The little plum tree had borne fruit well. All the pickers, human and other, delighted in what she had given us. Tom filled a bucket and I began to prepare the plums for preserves. We make preserves of figs and pears that grow in our yard. How hard could plum preserves be?
Turns out, the canning process is a breeze. Boil, pack, seal, pop, done. What was unexpected was the tartness of the plums after they were canned. Tartness was likely there all along; revealed when the heat was on. Even added sugar could not mask it. Still the process was satisfying and the product is beautiful. We will find uses for it beyond biscuits.
As Tom and I sat on the back deck looking at the little plum tree, now partially emptied of her load, I told him the little tree looked like she had just come through childbirth. The fruit was gone, but the effects of the fruit bearing remained. She was bent over, some branches to the point of breaking. She looked worn out and ready for a rest. Squirrels danced through her branches grabbing the left-over plums and eating them like corn on the cob, sweet juice dripping from their little chins. Delight among the creatures for the fruit that was borne among us was everywhere.
Jesus speaks a lot about bearing fruit. “We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the ground…” so we sing in Godspell and read in the Gospels. Soil is prepared; seeds are scattered. Jesus calls us to stay connected; “I am the vine; you are the branches.” Bearing fruit comes of abiding in Christ. The little plum tree is planted and rooted deeply in the soil. She is fertilized and occasionally pruned. She drinks in the water that falls on her and opens widely to the sun. She abides steadfastly through all kinds of weather. Her agency is limited; she is totally dependent on God. It is designed within her to bear fruit; she yields to God’s work through her to bear the fruit she bears.
The fruit we bear, you and I, is not of our own agency. Rather it is seeded by God, watered by grace, and born of love. Saint Paul writes about the fruit that is borne through us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Fruit manifests itself in justice and righteousness.
The fruit we bear can be tart, bitterness just below a sweet surface. We watch the world around us soaked in conspiracy, toxic rhetoric, mean-spiritedness, untruth; much tartness lives loudly among us. The work of fruit bearing in the world can bend us over and break us down and wear us out. A walk through the garden reveals what is growing and what it is producing.
A gardening guru I watch on YouTube says to take a walk through your garden at least every other day to see what is growing that doesn’t need to be there. Pull out the weeds. Have faith that as we abide and stay connected to Christ, all will be renewed to bear what is good and right. Time again to taste the sweetness of God’s garden and remember to whom we are connected. Such goodness as this is worth preserving. Amen.