Friday Focus: Bearing Fruit
There were some present who told Jesus about the
Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them,
"Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse
sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you
will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of
Siloam fell on them--do you think that they were worse offenders than all the
others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all
perish just as they did." Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and
he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, 'See
here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still
I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir,
let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If
it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'" Luke 13:1-9
Lent is a time for fearless moral inventory. Without
a truly loving and forgiving God, what a wretched time this would be. It can
feel like our list of shortcomings just never gets shorter… same dumb mistakes,
over and over. But, thankfully, God
loves us and forgives us, over and over. He knows us through and through. He
made the clay from which we spring. We have been in his heart since before time
began. We are his beloved, warts and all.
How many times have we asked God for just one more
chance? And he has given us another chance and another and another. The lesson
of this week’s gospel is: God doesn’t give up on us. Don’t give up on him. We
are all sinners, not in the hands of an angry God, but in the arms of a loving
Savior. God’s love pursues us. It is all around us. But we must invite it in.
We take God’s love for granted at our peril.
The vintner can prepare the soil, prune the
branches, purge the pests and nurture the plant. He can do it year after year.
But ultimately the vine must respond. Without fruit, it is just taking up
space, wasting precious time and effort. It is headed for the fire. And frankly
so are we, if we don’t turn to him, throw our sins upon the cross, ask his
forgiveness and make firm resolve to live in and for his love.
Simple advice, but sadly the world is full of people
much too smart and far too proud to take it. And no wonder: in popular culture,
practicing Christians are portrayed as naïve dopes at best and more often than
not as smarmy hypocrites who are the villains of every plot. How un-cool to
search your soul, name your sins, take responsibility and ask for God’s
forgiveness. But Lent is the antithesis of cool. It is a time of searing
self-awareness. It is a time for re-igniting lukewarm faith and fanning the
flame of Christ’s love.
Time is the precious currency of life. This Lent
let’s invest it where it will give the greatest return. Spend more time with
Jesus every day. Walk with him through your past, your day, your plans. Knowing
that Lent leads to the cross, ask his forgiveness, seek his guidance. Thank
him; praise him; love him. Share his love with every one in your life today.
That is the fruit we were planted here to bear.