March 24, 2019
On this third Sunday in Lent, we see enthusiasts for God come rushing to Jesus trying to make sense of a mass murder motivated by religious prejudice. “See,” they say, “how God uses evil-doers to punish sinners.”
Jesus corrects their claim about God’s judgment and ordinary life, introducing a horror story of his own. He describes a disaster causing many sudden deaths. His point is, bringing life and faith together isn’t about our avoiding sin and acquiring virtue. Rather, unlearning sin and learning holiness is the fruit of repentance. Repentance turns away from trusting in our own works and achievements and turns toward trusting in God’s presence, nearness, and forgiveness, seeking grace – moment by moment.
Jesus seeks to help these folks’ life and faith flourish together by means of the parable of the fig tree.
At our 9:30 A.M., Sunday worship, in prayer, Word, song, sermon and Meal, we’ll hear Jesus say you don’t have to be a gardener, much less own an orchard, to recognize repentance isn’t a fruit problem; it’s a root problem! Like the fruitless fig tree, the problem of our fruitlessness is a root problem. Our repentance, then, cannot rest on “I CAN” statements: I have sinned, God. I am sorry, God. I apologize, Church. I can do better.
Rather, repentance must be rooted in “I CAN’T” statements: I have sinned, God. I am sorry, God. God, I’ve tried & tried & tried but I just can’t produce good fruit. I can’t do better. I need your gardener work on the roots of my life. Give me a new life, God. God, give me your life. I can’t.