If any of you have apple trees in your yard, the expectation is they will bear apples. If you were to go down to Dennis Co. and purchase a young apple tree and plant it in your yard you might need to be patient for a year or two or more before it begins to produce fruit.
And you would need to protect it from the deer who love tender, young foliage or you might never see any fruit on that tree. But if all goes well you will most likely, eventually, enjoy a harvest of delicious apples. How long are you willing to wait? Two years, three years, five years or more? Surely as you planted that small fruit tree you expected that it would bear fruit That's what fruit trees are supposed to do, bear fruit. (Now, hold on to that thought.)
As our Gospel story begins, Jesus was traveling from Galilee down to Jerusalem, about an eighty mile journey. Along the way, some people came up to Jesus and told him about two nasty disasters which apparently had recently occurred. Both of these events had come about suddenly without warning and people died. Jesus poses the question, "Do you think that because the victims suffered and died this way were they worse sinners?" "No," he says as he answers his own question. "But unless you repent you will all perish as they did."
Jesus seems to be saying these people didn't deserve to die in this way, they were not responsible for their deaths but they died. He gives a wake up call to us. "Are you ready at all times to meet our God face to face?" Each day gives us an opportunity to produce good fruit, that is, good deeds. Each day, we ought to check out our relationship with God, How are we with family, friends and neighbors? We are to be the people God intends us to be.
Then just in case the people hadn't understood Jesus he tells a parable to explain more clearly. "A man planted a fig tree, he came looking for fruit from that fig tree, for three years he came looking for fruit from that fig tree, there was none. In exasperation he told his gardener to cut that thing down. Why should he waste this space and this soil?
But the gardener replies, "Let's give this tree a little more time, perhaps one more year. Maybe add a bit of manure to the soil, or try watering a bit more often. Let's give the tree one more chance.
Do any of you have shrubs or trees in your yard that are not doing well, not producing blossoms or fruit that you had hoped for?
Years ago an elder of this church gave me a nice sized sprout from their lilac tree. I planted that three foot little tree with great expectations of soon enjoying bouquets of fragrant white lilacs. Year after year the tree grew taller but no flowers. I complained to my mother of how disappointed I was and she said, "Well have you tried sprinkling a little fertilizer around the base of it?" My mother loved spending time in her flower and vegetable gardens. She was a gardener who could coax most any plant to grow and flourish. I took her advice, added manure to the soil and was delighted with lilac blooms within a year.
Aren't we blessed to know our God is generous in mercy and willing to give us, if needed, a little more time, if necessary another chance to get things right?
This is the parable for today. Our Lord wants to give us another season, another year, some more space to begin living our lives in ways the Lord expects from all of us. We have another moment of grace to produce the life of love our God desires of us.
We are at midpoint in our Lenten joumeys and we hear a message of self-examination and repentance as we prepare for Easter. Marianne Binette writes in her weekly gardening column, "This is the month to March right outdoors and start gardening. There are weeds to pull and smother, perennials to dig and divide, plants to move, trees and shrubs to add and with that comes soul satisfying, instant gratification from cleaning up the beds."
One might consider our interior spiritual life as a garden in progress, organic and ever changing. How is our interior garden growing? Within each person lies this secret, sacred space. Where are the barren places, where is it fruitful? Have you spent time weeding, pruning and planting new seeds? How might we add beauty to this interior place? If we are fortunate, sometimes other kind gardeners intervene on our behalf. Friends and family forgive our all too obvious warts, make allowances for our short comings or nourish us when our spirit is lifeless. Often we can become compassionate gardeners for another person, patiently loving them to new life, it just takes a little time.
I look forward to seeing the movie "Les Miserables". In it the lead character sings the song "One more day, One more hour. He sings, Tomorrow we'll be far away, Tomorrow is the judgment day, Tomorrow we'll discover what our God in heaven has in store. One more dawn, One more day, One day more!
Thanks be to God. AMEN