"Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." Luke 13:6-9 NRSV
For some reason this article has been a difficult one to write. In fact, I’ve written more than five articles and none of them bared what I was feeling; what I wanted and needed to say. I sat at the Men’s Bible Study on Wednesday afternoon (yes my article is that late…sorry Nikki) and the text was the above text. Such a simple text and yet after 45 minutes I still had about two days of words I could lift up. What theology, grace, forgiveness, judgement, mercy, allegory, context, history, love, compassion, wrath, life, death, unexpectedness, warning…you get the point. Do you see all those ideas in the text…I hope so?
The article came to me like a freight train. God has a habit of doing that most of the time with me. It came when I asked the question, “If you had one year to live, what would you do?” What type of fruit would you like to bear? Would you be content just to sit in your easy chair and mope around or would you live your life to the fullest? Would you harbor the anger in your heart? Would you hug your spouse, your kids, your grandkids? Would you be grumpy or would you be bring joy to those around you? Would you wait to tell people you love them? Would you keep holding on to the grudge that has a grip on you? Then the insight came, “What would happen if today, this very moment was it? God doesn’t guarantee even the day…only gives the moment.”
I’ve been sitting at my desk today fuming, grousing, complaining, even being a little grumpy. The staff couldn’t help but notice. They encircled me, socially distanced of course, but in their love and compassion they embraced me when I needed it. I even got an email of support (and that person didn’t know how my morning was going!). Grace comes in many ways and even the pastor, especially the pastor, needs grace and a lift me up every once in a while.
I will preach on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) this coming Sunday and we will lift up the saints that left us this year. We will celebrate communion. God is always full of wonderful surprises and the words of the beatitudes (Latin - blessed) or Makarios (Greek- fortunate) or hass rees (Hebrew-happy in God) were right in front of me.
In a sense the real question I needed to ask myself this morning was, “What makes me happy?” As I read through the sermon one last time, I realized that Jesus is offering nine statements on inner contentment. Jesus is making a declaration about the state of our hearts, minds, and souls in relationship to living in God. Jesus is making a Godly proclamation.
Jesus is reminding us that we must be cognizant of us all falling short of God’s grace, because we are poor in spirit. That when we lose someone close to us, God’s comfort will be there and will hold us in the palm of his hands. That when we are meek, we reflect our dependency, our total dependency on God; not passively but actively. It doesn’t mean spineless or gutless. It means that we have a power that is harnessed or under control. That through God’s omnipotent power all things are possible.
God provides us with a sure and certain hope that is embodied not solely in Jesus Christ, but made manifest in us, the people of faith. Many folks of faith have gone through many ordeals and remained steadfast in their loyalty to Christ and their love for neighbor and world.
We need to worship the Lamb who died so that we might live, the Messiah, our Savior, who would eat with us sinners and reminded us to love God fully, to love the unlovable and the unlovely in order that the world would know that we are his followers. The late John Lewis once said, “Never, ever let someone pull you down so low you hate them.”
Through God’s grace the fig tree was left for three years to bear fruit, Jesus, the gardener, interceded on its behalf for one more year… the question… will we bear fruit?