Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
Do you ever read National Enquirer headlines while in line at the supermarket? Stories like “Housewife’s Death Reveals Hubby’s Corpse in Freezer” (Jan 10, 2020) or “Columbian Drug Lord. . .Plotted to Kidnap JFK Jr. . .” (Feb 20, 2020)?
Jesus didn’t have a National Enquirer subscription, but he had other news sources for his inquiring mind. In Luke 13, people told him about some Galileans who were making sacrifices to God in Jerusalem when the Romans killed them, mixing their blood with the blood of their sacrifices. That headline might have been, “Daily Devotions Go Bizarrely Wrong” or “Sacrificed on Their Own Altar”.
In response, Jesus had his own headliner story, about eighteen men who died when a tower fell on them.
He said about the stories: “Do you think these violent deaths prove that the victims were worse sinners than others? Don’t believe it. Unless you repent, every one of you will perish.”
“Unless you repent you will perish?” What did Jesus mean? Was he saying, “You are sinners like the people who died, and you too are headed for horrible and unexpected deaths if you don’t repent”?
But everybody dies, whether they repent or not. Was Jesus offering a bonus to people who repent? Perhaps those who repent will be spared a horrible, violent death that makes headlines. Instead, they will get a nice peaceful death?
Then Jesus told this story: A landowner’s fig tree didn’t bear fruit for three years. So he said to his gardener, “Chop it down. I don’t want it using up my good soil!” But the gardener answered, “Let’s give it one more year. I’ll dig around it and put on some manure. Maybe it will bear fruit next year. If not, you can cut it down then.”
Do you ever feel that God is a gardener in your life, digging around, and pruning and fertilizing and inspecting? And that his activity makes your life painful and difficult?
If Jesus’ gardening story is his comment on the shocking news of the day, perhaps this is what he’s saying: Your life is God’s gift, it’s a tree where God wants to find fruit. Perhaps the fruit of love, or thankfulness, or faith.
Jesus’ call to repent, to change your ways, might be God saying to you, “Quit complaining at me! Tell me some things you’re thankful for. Don’t blame and criticize me for everything that’s wrong in your life and in your world. Give me credit for the good things I do down there.”
And perhaps, like the landowner and gardener in the story, God is conflicted about whether to cut down your tree. Part of him thinks, “I’ve given this customer all the time he needs.” And part of him says, “But maybe if I’m patient for another year, and dig a bit fertilize a bit, he’ll turn out OK.”
Our father, you have been waiting a long time for us to bear fruit. Thank you for your activity in our lives–digging and pruning and fertilizing and inspecting. Here is our repentance:
…We confess that we are wrong to complain endlessly about you and others and our world.
…We thank you for the opportunity to enjoy the world, to appreciate its beauty, and to build relationships with the people you have put here.
…Thank you for time to correct our faults, to love our neighbors, to talk with you.
…We pray, “Your kingdom come.” Fix what is wrong in us, in our church, in the world. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.