2019-03-24/3rd Sunday in Lent/Community Lutheran Church/Pr. Joe Vought
Isaiah 55:1-9 Luke 13:1-9
Jesus is walking with his disciples and crowds all the way to Jerusalem. We know what will happen there as we draw closer to the Passion and Crucifixion of our Lord. As Jesus walks he is also teaching: “I tell you do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But fear Him who has authority to cast into hell. Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food and more than clothing.” Jesus is giving his disciples notice for the tests of faith that will come to each of us. Now, as if to change the subject, someone asks, “Hey, what about those Galileans killed by Pilate while worshiping?” Jesus responds, “Oh, and you think because they suffered, they were some kind of super-sinners? But unless you repent you will likewise perish.” Then Jesus says, “The Tower in Siloam when 18 were killed, do you think they were worse offenders than others?” Then, as now, disasters took human lives and we want to understand why. Sometimes the question in the back of our minds is: “I wonder what they did to deserve this?” We look for cause and effect. If you read Psalm 1 it says, “good things follow those who do good and bad things befall those who do evil.” In John’s Gospel, the disciples meet a man born blind and ask Jesus, “Who sinned this man or his parents?” Jesus responds, “Neither sinned.” But we know good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Job was a righteous man who suffered. Jesus knew no sin and was crucified.
What do we say when airplanes plunge to earth in fiery crashes killing everyone? Why were Muslims killed while worshiping? Despite all the facts, we uncover, the judgments we make, all we can say is “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” There are questions we will never fathom. 100 years ago it took weeks for news of the Titanic to reach America. Now the 24 hour news cycle is incessant, global. We become either traumatized, desensitized or voyeurs to disaster. We want to know more, figure it out to understand the universe or the mind of God. Isaiah, the prophet says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, let the wicked and righteous return to the Lord who will have mercy… My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” Martin Luther was asked by a student, “What was God doing before God created the heavens and earth?” Luther said, “Making hell for people who ask stupid questions.” Jesus challenges those focused on disasters. He doesn’t explain why and he doesn’t let them or us off the hook. After each disaster Jesus says, “I tell you, unless you repent you will all perish as they did.” He says it twice.
The word repentance does not mean to “feel sorry” but more accurately “get a new mind, think in a new way.” Ask a better question. Stop fixating on disasters and human tragedy! And then Jesus tells a parable: A man planted a fig tree and, after the waiting time of three years, long enough for maturity, the owner expects figs. When he finds none, he says to the gardener, “Cut it down, why should it be wasting the soil?” But the gardener steps in, “Let it alone until I dig around it and put on manure….”
Jesus intercedes for us, “Forgive them Father, give them time to change their minds and bear fruit.” It’s not about our judgement of others, that’s God’s business. And it’s not about grabbing all we can while we can. Jesus is asking us to get a new mind, turn around. We are called to bear fruit and bless others, because the fruit reveals the root, the heart and meaning of one’s life. On Ash Wednesday we heard the words, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” The death rate is still 100% So Jesus is inviting us to Go Dig in the dirt like a Gardener, Dig into your Faith, nurture the roots, let this church be a garden of faith for growing disciples. “Life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Fig trees do not live for themselves. What is the fruit you are bearing not for yourselves but beyond yourselves? How are we teaching our children to share and be of service? We are not baptized to be fearful, fixate on disasters or turn in on ourselves but to discover how we may love God and bear fruit for the healing of the world.
I love the ways we are growing here at CLC: Grieving people ministering to one another; Parents and youth learning how God loves us in Baptism and welcomes us to Communion; Welcome the community here for wonderful Music; When we baptize people, we promise to nurture them. Even if your kids are grown, could you help them learn the faith? I believe we can all make a little pledge to support our ministries and build up our Church. Your pastors pledge. It’s a way of saying, “God has given me everything, and I am thankful.” Come dig in the dirt with the Giving Garden. Deliver food to the hungry. Find a ministry that serves others and brings you joy.
Yes, there are disasters and the grief of life can overwhelm us. But we find a way to be Godly people, to build up and bring healing like Jesus. Jesus is working with us daily at our labors, and praying for us. Jesus is helping us to bear fruit and believe. Let us love God and love others while we can. Amen.