Sunday, 3 March 2013

Garden of Hope

GospelLuke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’
  He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. You would think the last thing he needs to hear is about the death of previous pilgrims; especially from his homeland.  Harbingers of doom even today, love to report on tragedy with the enthusiasm of theatre critics; as long as it's not their own. There must have been some sidelong glaces watching for Jesus' reaction to this massacre. Yet another test of his intentions, perhaps?

Jesus has, however, already passed the point of no return - the mountain experience has tightened his resolve. You could say that these were truly words of foreboding. Jesus treats them with the magnanimity of a practical man.

Bad things happen and not just to bad people. Life is full of experiences that we may presume to be judgements or rewards. We have a choice of letting them go or dragging them around with us like Marley's chains. 

Death, in this life, comes to all of us. Not just to the sinners or the guilty; not just to the holy ones.  The 'Good' do not die any younger than the 'bad' - we just make a point of missing those who make a positive impact on us.

It is the human condition - we are all going to die; our concern should be that we do not die before we have lived the life that God desires of us. 

This is what Jesus wants us to take notice of; and to take notice of the effort that God puts into helping us. 

It would be the way of many to imagine that the Master here is God; disappointed and wearied by the lack of fruit - again. This tree of life that is often an image for the Jewish people, has failed again and again. This is what the Jews told themselves - pointing out where God's covenant had been broken; where the people had turned away; where God had not been enough. The Master could, just as easily be ourselves; judging ourselves irredeemable because of mistakes from the past; time when we have not come up to the mark; when there has been no fruit to be had. 

Jesus sees the world that his Father has made and reminds us of that first covenant. To be stewards of the earth is to understand the seasons; the needs of the earth; the need to nurture. Jesus takes on the role of the gardener; lives in hope. Hope is hard work; taking awareness, effort and persistence. It is a grace we are asked to practice; not least upon ourselves.

Jesus' continuing journey towards Jerusalem tells us that he is willing to persevere; that we are never, in his eyes, a lost cause. He will feed the heartwood of our failing lives with his own blood. He will do it because he sees what good we have within us.

 The fine green shoots of Spring are a fragile as fine blown glass, called by the sun, they make their way through gnarled, overwintered bark, concreted ground, frost-hardened earth. Each Spring we take the Lenten journey - through the darkness and the reconciliation, through the struggles of our lives and regrets; through the hope of redemption; towards the Son who is the Light of the World.


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