The central theme of today’s gospel reading is that of repentance. As we approach the mid-point in our Lenten journey, we are reminded of the need to change our ways – to turn from our world-centred path, and renew our commitment to following the path God has set for us.
In our gospel reading Jesus tells us of a fig tree that has stopped producing figs. There may have been a time when it was fruitful, producing (possibly) the best fruit in the neighbourhood – but now – nothing!
I am sure that farmers in this rural community would know what to do with such a ‘useless’ tree – cut it down and plant something more productive!
But – in Jesus’ parable – there is someone who pleads for the fruitless tree to be given a second chance.
The gardener says that he will tend the ailing tree – he will work hard to revive it – he will nurture it in hope that it will be returned to its former glory.
What does this parable say to us today?
- Have we run out of steam?
- Are we journeying through a time of spiritual drought?
- Do we need to find the new path along which our God-given gifts might be given new life?
Everyone here is gifted – everyone has something to offer to God through a life of love and service.
It does not matter how young or old we may be in years, or in the faith, we are all capable of bearing good fruit in the Lord’s name.
So often, church communities can be their own worst enemies …
- they become rooted in mindless repetition, rather than active engagement –
- the constant re-enactment of routines becomes more important than discerning the will of God –
- the digging, the pruning, the fertilizing and the tending is seen as a threat, rather than as a vital response to God’s call.
In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul was against complacency – If you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall, he says.
It is so easy for us to move from lively spiritual fruitfulness into barren self-destructiveness.
It is so easy for us to stop listening to God – well, he is so demanding, isn’t he!?
In our Old Testament lesson, the prophet Isaiah urges us to set aside our complacency, our apathy and our fear. Rather, we are urged to tell everyone we meet about God’s love and goodness.
God gives us gifts so that the body of Christ (that is us – you and me – by the way!) can be strengthened and built up in order that we might witness to the world in God’s name.
We are all being called to the abundant life that can be found in a relationship with God.
Isaiah likens that relationship with God to receiving the best wine and the richest food – God’s everlasting commitment of love to all people is like a great banquet – and everyone is invited.
We need to recognize, and to understand, that we are the holy people of God in this place, at this time!
It is our responsibility to step outside of our comfortable, self-constructed boxes and do God’s work!!!
We are called to pray, to serve, to fight injustice, to bring hope, to bring new life.
We are called to be God’s agents, through our prayers and words and deeds – calling all to abundant life – and not just when it is convenient, or when we have a gap in the diary!!!
In scripture we are told that: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and that God’s ways are not our ways.
God longs for everyone to come to him – to engage with his call to live in his thoughts and in his ways – God calls us to see a bigger vision than we can conceive on our own.
It takes courage to be God’s people –
- it demands that we take risks –
- it demands that we prove that we believe that God is with us at all times, no matter where we may find ourselves.
The parable of the fig tree reminds us that we are not being written off, but rather that we are being given an opportunity to reshape our lives, to follow a different path – to repent!
We may feel tired – we may feel wrung out – we may feel as though we, like the fig tree in the parable, have run out of steam – but … let us recognize the second chance we are being offered through God’s gracious love, and let us allow ourselves to be tended and nurtured in the faith in order that we might fulfil our calling to blossom and be fruitful.
In the power of the Holy Spirit – I pray that we might all rise to the challenge that confronts us today. Amen.