There’s so much going on in the world these days. First we were devastated to see the destruction in Haiti. Then there was the celebration of life and unity in the Olympics. Then as the Olympics wind down, another huge earthquake. The biggest in recorded history hit Chile.
The earthquake in Chile was so big it, so much of the earth’s crust moved, it tilted the earth off of it’s axis by about 3 inches and shortened our days by 1.26 millionths of a second.
A lot of people have died this year.
In talking with people, the popular response tends to be “Can you imagine?”
And we can’t, can we? We’ve never witnessed such devastation in our lives. We haven’t been in a situation where hundreds of thousands of people have died around us. And yet people have around the world, and they’ve done so suddenly, unexpectedly.
We’ve heard in the news where a particular religious leader blamed the sins of the Haitian people for the devastation they experienced. I wonder what he has to say about the Chilean people? I see he hasn’t been so quick to speak this time around.
What he said isn’t something we haven’t thought at least some time in our lives. Someone goes to jail, someone gets seriously hurt, and sometime, not very often, we might think, “They got what they deserve!”
Or when something like these earthquakes happen we will wonder, “What did they do to deserve this?” We can’t quite understand how something like this can happen to good people. What did they possibly do to invite such destruction into their lives?
They did nothing! Accidents happen. Earthquakes happen. Tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, thunderstorms, volcanoes… they all just happen. Car accidents, fires, plane crashes, buildings falling down, they are all accidents. Sure, for these ones there may be someone at fault, whether through actions or design, but more often than not, they are simply accidents. Unintended consequences to a series of decisions, not meant to do any harm. Accidents.
And accidents happen to everyone.
In biblical times, often accidents were seen as curses or punishment for something someone has done. This morning we heard of two examples Jesus brings to our attention.
The first is some Galileans who had their blood mixed in with their sacrifice by Pilate. Now, unfortunately this is the only known record of this event, but Jesus would not have used it unless people had known about it. We do know that Pilate had a certain affinity for brutal punishment, and the verse here hints maybe the Galileans were killed as they were making a sacrifice.
The second example is of some people who seem to have been crushed when a tower unexpectedly fell over on top of them.
Jesus asks “why did they die?” Was it because of their sin? This is what a lot of people may have been thinking. They died for a reason. Premature death was often seen as punishment from God for things people had done.
Jesus wonders aloud if they were any worse, any greater sinners than anyone else. Were the lives of those who died any worse than people who still live. Jesus tells us, “no.”
The first was a circumstance beyond the control of the Galileans. They were in Pilate’s path on one of his bad days. Not a good place to be. Those who were under the tower, it was an accident. Again, bad place at a bad time.
Those who are listening to Jesus knows how these people suffered as they died. Pilate brutally murdered people, the tower trapped those who were under it until they too died before rescuers could get to them. They suffered painful deaths, and people were likely talking about hearing them as they died.
Remind you of anything in the news over the last few months?
Jesus warns us that we too will perish just as they all did unless we repent. Does he mean we will all be killed by a vengeful god? No, here he has moved into the spiritual. Jesus is warning us that as was witnessed in the tragic deaths of innocent people, our souls too will suffer if we don’t repent of our sins.
Our sins are what keep us from fulfilling our calling as Christians in the world. Mistakes we make on a regular basis. So we must seek repentance again and again. Asking God to forgive us, and to help us turn away from these temptations.
God wants us to prosper. Even when we struggle in our faith, when we don’t live up to our potential, God still cares for us.
Just like the fig tree.
Jesus tells us the parable of the fig tree this morning to let us know God cares for us.
This fig tree has not produced any fruit in three years, so is no good to the owner of the field. He wants his gardener to cut it down and throw it away. But the gardener still sees the good of the tree. He wants to give it the best possible chance to produce fruit and live. “Give it one more year!” he asks the owner.
The owner might as well let him try. To dig up the tree and plant a new one will cause at least another three year delay as a new tree will need that long to mature enough to bear fruit. So if the gardener thinks he can get it to produce fruit in just one more year, then go for it!
The tree has received a second chance. The gardener will now take special care of that tree. He will fertilize it, water it, keep it safe from predators and bugs and hopefully it will grow and produce fruit next season.
If it doesn’t then its gone.
This tree is taking up valuable space in the garden. It should be producing fruit, but it’s not. So, why waste the time and space on useless plant?
Put yourself in the place of the fig tree.
It’s where Jesus wants you to place yourself in the parable. God is the gardener. God is preparing you to produce fruit.
In the season of Lent, we become increasingly aware of the things which pull us apart from God. The sins in our lives. We do this every year. We seek forgiveness, we repent. We try to produce fruit.
We need to be aware that without the gardener, we can’t do anything. We cannot produce fruit unless we let the gardener take care of us and put our trust into what He is doing to get us ready.
What is the gardener doing in your life?
How is God preparing you be bear fruit to God’s people? To be a productive member of God’s garden here on earth?
Our souls long to be close to God, and the ache and suffer when we are far away. So let God speak to you as we continue on the road with Jesus to Jerusalem. The city that will take his life for our sins.
And we may be fruitless no more, we have a second chance because of what Jesus has done for us.