Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2
When the average person hears the word apple, they picture a bin overflowing with ripened fruit at the farmer’s market, but for me, having pruned, sprayed, and harvested apple trees for more than a few years, it brings back memories of Wintertime in the orchards. I remember again that it takes four seasons to grow a single apple. In today’s verse, Paul tells us to be ready to do God’s work “Out of season”. We need to live and love and serve, not only when the sun is warm and things are sweet, but also when the snow drifts stand around us and our sap is hidden deep underground. In an orchard there is always something to be done, and Winter is actually even busier than Fall. Trees that are left to themselves in the off season, produce smaller, more diseased and fewer apples each year. Winter is the time to cut out fire blighted branches, before they spread their deadly bacteria to the rest of the tree. Then, we must cut out the tall sucker growth that saps energy from the hard-working fruit wood. Last, and perhaps saddest of all, we have to saw off once fruitful limbs that have succumbed to age, disease or damage done by storms. In the same way that Paul tells Timothy about his work with the church, this activity is not just something to keep us busy in the off season. It must sometimes be performed regularly and in the worst possible working conditions. Even on days when temperatures barely creep above 0˚ Fahrenheit, we reprove uncontrolled selfish growth, rebuke the diseased limbs and exhort and encourage faithful fruitful branches. And on the day we finish an orchard, there is no sight more beautiful, than looking out over orderly stands of well-trimmed trees and seeing with eyes of faith the harvest to come. Yet, even as we walk away with relieved smiles, we know that there will always be a next Winter when someone must patiently return. We remember that without our, “Out of season” work the harvest will never make it to market.