Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lent 3

Lent 3
Luke 13:1-9
Facing Destruction
Judgment is delayed to allow time to repent

Almighty God, because You know that we of ourselves have no strength, keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended form all adversity that may happen to the body and form all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul,

Of what use were you in this world? Our gospel lesson begs us to contemplate this question. This is one of life’s most searching questions. Did your life count for anything?  What say you? Has your life been a bang or a bust?  A life, according to Jesus can be like the fig tree from our text for today.

1.       Planted by God.
A.      God created man. In His own image, He created them. Male and female He created them. He has provided and cared for man from the beginning of time. In your life, you are not far from His watchful eye. He cares for you. He provides for you. He sustains your life.

B.      As a result, man has a responsibility to produce fruits worthy of God’s praise. It’s simple. You owe God. Who gave you life. Who provides the air you breathe several times each minute throughout your life. Who provided the soil and water that grew your food. Who looked after you when you did stupid or self-destructive things in your life? It is He, who didn’t turn His back on you when you begged for mercy and leniency. It is He, who daily forgives your many sins.  

2.       The Patience of God.
A.      God is willing to give man another chance. He wants him to become fruitful. He wants him to be productive. He wants him to repent. That’s the entire point of the parable. It explains grace, God’s big do-over. Your heavenly Father is the champion of second chances. He is not willing that any perish.

B.       There is one more year before destruction. The vinedresser pleads with the landlord.  He pleads that the fig tree be given a chance to live and be productive. He dares to save the fig tree when it’s wasting space. After all, it’s sitting in the middle of a vineyard. Don’t save it! Get rid of it! And yet, the vinedresser pleads for the fig tree.  This again says something about the Savior. The Lord is in the business of saving those who are not really worth saving.  An unproductive fig tree, who had been taking up valuable space in a vineyard for three years, should be cut down and discarded. Yet, the vinedresser pleads with the landlord, “Give it one more year.” Jesus intercedes to the Father for you.  Lent is a time to repent.

C.      Lent is also a time of grace.  Not only does the vinedresser plead for the tree. He has a plan. A good plan. He will fertilize the tree and water it. He will do anything and everything within His power to save the tree. Christ goes to the cross for you. He bears your sins. He will stop at nothing to redeem and save you.

3.       The Plight of man.
A.      The justice of God however will be visited. His patience will not last forever. Judgment will come. The vinedresser was given only a year.  We don’t know if the fig tree produced any fruit. Did the extra fertilizer and water work? We don’t know. If it didn’t work, we know what would happen next. The ax would be laid to the tree. Likewise, judgment will be visited upon unrepentant sinners. A useless, fruitless person will be cut down if there is no life in that person.

B.      To prevent this damage from happening man must repent. God will save him from certain destruction. So we keep on. We proclaim and share the message of the cross. The message of the Cross-— of death and resurrection — meets resistance from both inside and outside the Church (not to mention within each and every one of us) because God’s message isn’t a nice message, it’s a foolish message, through and through.

It’s foolishness because God isn’t for first place finishers, winners, heroes, or living legends. He’s for suffering and conflicted people. Christ afflicted on His Cross, suffering our punishment that we may be set free from cheapjack living to be children of God. He meets us in our suffering and conflicts not in the promise to take them away. He’s simply always with us. In death. And in life.

So once again, of what use were you in this world? To be effectively used by God that is our ultimate purpose in life. We are placed here to believe in Christ, to serve our neighbor – and praise the Savior.
When we do all this, not only will be producing “good fruit” but we will also come to the right conclusion that our life is worth a lot.  You count for much. Every person in this room is important and special to Christ. Does your life count for anything? According to Jesus, it counts greatly! May each of us then make the best of our days dong all to the glory of God.

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