"You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you." (John 15:3 NIV)

As an avid gardener (in season), I enjoy all the Bible references comparing human life to plant form. I can picture God's words as seeds falling amongst stones or weeds and not sprouting. When a seed is fertilised, it grows strong roots and can withstand a storm. When a plant bears fruit, it multiplies. I realise how the Holy Spirit is like sap running inside the branches, necessary for growth.

Are you wondering what this verse has to do with gardening? I discovered the word clean is the same word as prune.

Sometimes when a plant is left to itself it can become a sorry sight. Straggly and half-dead, it requires pruning. We use the term "clean it up". I determinedly cut the old branches down to the ground, thin out the centre to give it some breathing space, and shorten the remaining branches.

Often I discover some particularly robust shoots known as suckers. Hidden, they may give the shrub the appearance of being full and healthy, but they are not useful and will suck the life out of the plant.

The poor thing looks like it's been attacked. But cleaned up, the shrub will soon recover and take on new life. It becomes an attractive, productive plant once again.

When we read God's Word and suddenly remember a sin we committed, the Holy Spirit is cleaning us up. We might look healthy on the outside but close inspection reveals a need to be pruned. We don't like being "cut down", but it's necessary.

Jesus, you are the Master Gardener. Help us to give you control over our life and clean us up. Let us see your Hand at work when Truth reveals what is not attractive to you. Amen.

JJ Ollerenshaw