In the name of God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Journey with me if you will to
It’s hard to imagine Adolf Hitler or Bull Connor or Jeffrey Dalmer or Sadaam Hussein or the drug lords of this era as tiny babies, needing their diapers changed and tears wiped from their faces. It is hard to imagine them as needing the warmth of a mother and needing to be held and cuddled just like any other baby. Lives that have become sour did not show up on the earth as the disgrace that they have become. Lives that bear no fruit but bitter barrenness didn’t just show up. They were once seeds. They were once seeds bearing much potential to grow into a tree bearing much good fruit. They started out innocently as some mother’s child or some father’s daughter or son. She didn’t start out as a crack head. He didn’t start out as a murderer. She didn’t start out as a liar or a thief. He didn’t start out as an abuser.
Lest we forget that every criminal, everyone we consider a waste of humanity is also a creation of God, planted as a choice seed to become a flowering and fruitful tree. How then does it happen that it becomes a tree which bears no fruit? What happened to life in any of us that turn from God’s divine creation to a disgraced creature? What happens in school that turns some of our children from the road of tall and strong trees with figs of potential weighing each branch to the ground to dry and barren trees? What happens in our careers to turn some of us to barren trees? What happens in the church that turns some members into wild and fruitless trees? What happens in the ministry that turns some of us into barren trees; Priests of God with no soul at all?
Somebody wants to know what happened in my home to turn my children into seedlings which appear to be barren, bearing no fruit at all. Somebody wants to know what happened to turn my marriage into a barren tree after there had been so much potential. How did this relationship that held so much promise go sour? How did this fig tree bear no fruit? It was planted in good faith, a seed with all the potential to be what the creator wanted it to be. It has grown but its leaves are anemic, its roots are unsteady, its branches are withering, it has no fruit. And I hear the echo’s of the orchard owner asking the crucial question: “Why should it be wasting the soil?”
This is the crucial question of our lives today, lives with the divine seed of God’s potential. Are we but wasting dirt? Are our lives a waste of good dirt that could be used to plant something else?
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, poses in his parable that question. He was speaking to a people who had become fruitless after having a history which demonstrated God’s divine favor. No other nation could claim a heritage like the nation of
God is like some of us parents. Some of us have given our children everything, yet it seems that they are bearing no fruit. We have sent our children to the best schools and given them opportunities to broaden their horizons and explore the world, yet there are no figs on the vine. Some of us, because of our own struggles have tried to make life for our children as easy as possible. All they have to do is walk around the walls and they will come falling flat to the ground! We have provided them with everything that they needed and even that they wanted, yet the tree has not borne any fruit. Unproductive lives, bearing no fruit.
The parable of the fruitless fig tree is symbolic of
When we read the history of Israel we understand that there were a number of things that drew it away from the fruitfulness that God had planned for it: David’s own sins that kept him from exercising proper discipline and authority in his own household; Solomon’s apostasy; the rebellion under Rehoboam and the split of God’s people into separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah; even a series of rulers whose god was their ambition and not the Lord.
This degeneration of God’s people did not happen overnight. But it happened over time. We do not move from good to evil of fruitful to fruitless overnight. It is a process that takes time. Some of us who want to loose weight think that we can diet for a couple of weeks and take off the pounds, and then when we don’t see a dramatic change, we become discouraged. We’ve got to understand that we can’t lose weight in a week when we have spent years putting it on. It is a process and a lifestyle change, and it takes time.
Marriages and relationships don’t soar overnight, but it takes time. We don’t build loving and lasting relationships overnight, but we build them over time. Changes in our sinful lifestyles and behaviors and to our characters take time. Living in holiness and righteousness to overcome our sinful nature takes time. Our character cannot be built in a day. It takes time. The body does not breakdown overnight, but it takes time. Health is not recovered overnight, but it takes time. Skills are not mastered and knowledge is not gained overnight, but it takes time. Wisdom and experience are not gained overnight, but it takes time. We don’t become mean and bitter, negative and cynical, selfish and self-centered overnight, it happens over time. Neither do we develop sweetness and cheerfulness and generosity and unselfishness and positive attitudes overnight, but over time. We don’t lose our souls, our values, our perspectives and our integrity overnight, but it happens over time. Neither do we regain a sense of purpose or self respect or confidence or closeness to God overnight, but over time.
We stopped doing all the things that we should do over time, not overnight. Here is the problem. Did we allow some disappointments to turn our heads? Did we allow circumstances to change our convictions? Did someone hurt us and cause us to get off track and forget the fruit that we must produce? Have we even been mad at God? Have we been disappointed with God, a God who keeps on blessing us even though he has every right to be disappointed with us?
And this is why Jesus tells us today in Luke’s gospel that he needs a little time. He needs a little time to work on us and cultivate us. Jesus depicts his own ministry in the parable. God (the owner) has repeatedly looked to
And so Jesus, our gardener, has pleaded on behalf of all of us just wasting dirt, for one more chance, a little more time. And sometimes, just sometimes, as we are lamenting our circumstances, we must understand that in order for us to grow and bear fruit, sometimes God has to put us in more dirt. What I mean to say is that God has to allow us to go through some mess and dig up the dirt around us and be surrounded by the manure of life so that he can cultivate us into trees that bear much fruit. It is not until we have experienced the dirt or life that we can grow into trees that bear fruit for the kingdom.
That is why I say to you today, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I implore you, not to waste dirt.
Those challenges and problems and ugly things that you must face, meet them with God. The dirt that you must face, the betrayal, the backbiting, the past hurts, the present disappointments, face all this dirt with God, for it is meant to cultivate you into God’s productive tree, bearing much fruit.
And so there is a word of hope today. For all those whose leaves have dried up and whose branches have withered, there is hope. No matter how much we have fallen, how much we have failed and erred, we can be redeemed. God does not give up on the tree, neither does God cease being a good god because we have stopped producing the fruit that he intended. Instead, God performs a divine drafting procedure. When two plants are grafted, they are cut so that their cells are exposed and they are joined together so that they grow into each other and become one. The two plants cannot be grafted together unless they are both wounded.
Glory be to God that on
And I can hear the voice of Jesus say: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”