I write this meditation on the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. At the same time, Christians around the world are preparing to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. The lives and deaths of these two men, almost two thousand years apart, remind us of the forces of the world, which we take on, when we preach and live lives of radical love and commitment to the poor and dispossessed.
In his book Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers, Eugene H. Peterson reminds us, "Nothing is more rudely dismissive of Jesus than to treat him as a Sunday school teacher who shows up on Sundays to teach us about God and how to stay out of trouble. If that is the role we assign to Jesus, we will badly misunderstand who he is and what he is about" (page 135). Interestingly, many scholars believe that Archbishop Romero was chosen to his position because the leaders in the Vatican saw him as a quiet man who wouldn't make trouble.
All that changed when one of his good friends, an activist Jesuit priest, was assassinated by one of the death squads roaming the country. Romero became increasingly political, increasingly concerned about the poor who were being oppressed by the tiny minority of rich people in the country. He called for reform. He called on the police and the soldiers to stop killing their brethren. And for his vision, he was killed as he consecrated the bread for Mass.
Romero knew that he was in danger from various political forces in the country, but he refused to cower in fear and back down. Likewise, Jesus must have known what wrath he was bringing down upon himself, but he did not back down. Until the end of his life, he called upon us to reform our earthly systems, systems that enrich a few on the backs of the many. Romero and Christ both show us that the forces of empire do not take kindly to being criticized.
Jesus warns us that to follow him will mean taking up a cross, and it may be the literal cross of death. The story of Palm Sunday reminds us that we are not here to seek the world's approval: the world may love us one day and crucify us next week. Palm Sunday offers us some serious reminders. If we put our faith in the world, we're doomed. If we get our glory from the acclaim of the secular world, we'll find ourselves rejected sooner, rather than later.
It's important for us to remember the basic lesson of the Scriptures: God is not fickle; it's humans and the societies that humans create that are fickle. You can be acclaimed in one season and denounced in the next.
The Passion story and the story of Oscar Romero remind us that dreadful things may happen to us. God took on human form, and even God couldn't avoid horrific pain and suffering. But the Passion story also reminds us that we are not alone. God is there in the midst of our human dramas. If we believe in free will and free choices, then God may not be able to protect us from the consequences of our decisions. But God will be there to be our comfort and our strength.
A more important lesson comes with Easter. God can take horrific suffering and death and transform it into resurrection. We know what happened to Jesus and those early Christians after the death of Jesus. Likewise, in death, Oscar Romero became a larger force for justice than in life. His death, and the martyrdom of other Church leaders and lay workers (not to mention the deaths of 75,000 civilians) galvanized worldwide public opinion against the forces of death in El Salvador. God is there with us in our suffering and with God's help, suffering can be transformed.
TRINITY'S ANNUAL VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL DATES ANNOUNCED!
Monday June 21st through Friday June 25th
6:30PM to 9PM
Closing worship Sunday June 27th
Time to write it in on your calendars and your friend's calendars and your neighbor's calendars - time to text the info and Facebook it and share it graciously and willingly to any and all!
Preps for Good Friday Stations of the Cross
Join us WED March 31st beginning at 5PM.
We will be laying mulch along the outline in order to make it more visible for the Good Friday Stations of the Cross Walk (which takes place from noon to 3PM). Dinner for all will be provided (kid friendly food as well as adult fare!) Remember - this will be a good opportunity for service hours for those who need them.
Permanent repairs to transform our labyrinth into a "living gift for prayer and reflection" for the community will take place when the rainy season commences. More information will follow on what will be one awesome work day to rebuild!
I've always had some amount of trouble with this Gospel; I suspect it's because I would have been that disciple who said, "Just think what we could have done with the money that went to buy that expensive oil. Doesn't Jesus know the electric bill is due? We could have helped the poor. And she went and poured it all over his feet!"
I know that traditionally we use this Gospel lesson to make us think forward a few weeks to Good Friday, when Jesus' dead body will be anointed with funeral oils (and for those of us who participate in foot washings on Maundy Thursday, perhaps we're supposed to think about Jesus' washing of the feet of his disciples). But there's still something about this Gospel that makes me restless.
Perhaps it is Jesus saying, "The poor you will always have with you." I'm uneasy with the way so many people through the centuries have used this line to justify their unwillingness to work to eradicate poverty. A shrug of the shoulders, that verse out of context, and poof, we don't have to worry about our riches.
All day, I've been trying to sit with this passage in a different context, in the context of the whole Gospel of John. Jesus says that the poor we'll always have with us, but we won't always have Jesus (at least not in human form). I'm trying to see it as Jesus telling us that we must treasure the moments in life that are sweet. Did Jesus know what was about to happen to him? Different theologians would give you different answers, but even if Jesus didn't know all the particulars of his upcoming execution, he must have known that he was stirring up all sorts of worldly trouble for himself. He must have known that he wouldn't have had many more of these occasions to sit and savor a meal.
I'm sure he's also speaking towards our impulse towards anger and self-righteousness. I can criticize the decisions of others in how they spend their money and what they should be spending their money on ("Imagine. She calls herself a Christian and she goes to get her nails done. She could do them herself at home and send the money she would have spent to Habitat for Humanity"). It's not always easy for me to know how to allocate my resources of time, treasure, and energy.
How are you coming in your Lenten journey? The darkness of Passion week will soon be upon us, as well as the joy of Easter (and then the long hot days of summer, when many of us fall to pieces spiritually). Perhaps we should use this calm space before the coming storms to think about our long-term journey, the one that lasts beyond Lent. Perhaps we should think about the ways we can continue our Lenten disciplines. Perhaps we might think about where we'd like to be this time next year and start to shift our trajectory towards that point.
A reminder that THIS Thursday night, March 18th, is the exciting BOLD Justice Rally. At the Rally we're going to be preparing for the Nehemiah Action. For the last couple of months the Crime and Housing Committees have been doing research and trying to find a solution. At the Rally each committee is going to be reporting on what they found out. Also we are going to go over all the plans for the big Nehemiah Action on Thursday, April 22nd. And if you need extra incentive to join us, Trinity's choir will be singing at the beginning and end of the meeting! This is our chance to really follow God's requirement to do justice. The rally begins at 7:30pm but there will be about 600 people there so we need to get there at 7pm to find a parking spot. The location is Little Flower Catholic Church located at 1805 Pierce Street at the intersection of Federal Highway and Pierce St. (just north of Hollywood Blvd). If you need a ride, there will be a carpool leaving from Trinity at 6:30pm. Please notify Janean Baumal (or the church office) if you would like to carpool. If you are unable to get to the church but still want to attend, a ride can certainly be arranged for you. Thank you for being a part of this important ministry for our community. We would love to have you join us.
PALM SUNDAY March 28th
8AM Holy Communion with Procession of Palms and the Reading of the Passion Gospel
10:45AM Holy Communion with “The Cry of the Whole Congregation” A Dramatic Presentation of Christ’s Passion
MAUNDY THURSDAY (April 1, 2010)
NOON: Maundy Thursday Holy Communion Service
With Foot/Hand Washing
7:30PM: Dramatic Youth Presentation with Holy Communion, Foot/Hand Washing, Anointing, and the Stripping of the Altar.
GOOD FRIDAY (April 2, 2010)
Noon to 3PM: Self-Guided Stations of the Cross at the Prayer Labyrinth
Noon and 7:30PM: Service of Readings and Shadows (Tenebrae) with Adoration of the Cross
EASTER SUNDAY (April 4, 2010)
6:30AM Sunrise with Candle Lighting and Holy Communion
At the Butterfly Garden
8AM Easter Morning Service with Candle Lighting and Holy Communion
10:45AM Cantata Service of Holy Communion with the Halleluiah Chorus!
EASTER BREAKFAST 7:30AM to 10AM
9:30AM EASTER MORNING Children’s Easter Egg Hunt and Celebration
RON MCCOY New: Early Stage Connections Support Group
Hollywood - A support group for seniors with an early stage diagnosis of Alzheimer ’s disease, or other form of dementia, and their family member caregiver, is being offered at the Joseph Meyerhoff Senior Center in Hollywood. This 8-session support group will begin on Thursday, May 6 from 2 -3:30 p.m. and will meet bi-monthly. There will be congruent patient and caregiver sessions. The program is being held in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association – Southeast Florida Chapter.
The cost will be $25.00 per person which will include annual membership for the Senior Center. An intake interview prior to the start of the group is required and may be arranged by contacting Bonni Stephenson at 954-988-9805.
FROM RON MCCOY
Eartha Dumond from the Aging and Disabilities Resource Center will be speaking at our Caregiver Support Group on Monday, March 15, at 2 p.m. about ways for income-eligible individuals to save money on their Medicare Part B monthly deductibles and their Part D prescription drug costs. She is also a Medicaid specialist, so she can answer questions related to qualifying for Medicaid benefits and programs, too.
As I understand it, the Medicare Savings Programs are available to help people pay for their Part B premium, which is often a $96.40 deduction per month from one’s income. To qualify to save this money, an individual can have up to $13,236 in yearly income (about $1,103 per month) and $6,600 in assets. A married couple can have up to $17,724 in yearly income (about $1,477 per month) and $9,910 in assets.
“Extra Help” is a Medicare program that helps pay for Part D prescription drug costs. Anyone who is on Part D and meets the following income/assets guidelines should apply for this benefit, which could save a person up to $3,900 annually. To qualify, an individual can have up to $16,245 in yearly income ($1,353 per month) and assets up to $12,510. A married couple can have up to $21,855 in yearly income ($1,821 per month) and assets up to $25,010.
PLEASE spread the word and come with your Medicare and Medicaid questions—Monday, March 15, 2:00 p.m. at Meyerhoff Senior Center!
MARCH 21ST MEMORY SERVICE
On Sunday, March 21st, at 8AM and 10:45AM, Trinity Lutheran Church, Pembroke Pines, invites the entire community to its service in commemoration of those whose lives are touched by Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. The service will include a dramatic reflection written by a caregiver whose spouse suffered from Alzheimer's disease, special hymns and prayers, a blessing for those participating in this year's Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk®, prayers for healing, and more. People are encouraged to bring in photos of their loved ones, living or deceased, who have suffered from Alzheimer's disease or memory loss for a special display for the service.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, as many as 5.2 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease. That’s roughly the population of Minnesota and greater than the populations of 25 other states. Approximately 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer's in their lifetime, and every 71 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in this country. The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer's and other dementias to Medicare, Medicaid and businesses amount to more than $148 billion each year.
MEMORY WALK 2010
Register today and join Ron McCoy and the our Meyerhoff Senior Center Team on March 20!
If you're the kind of person who's not going to sit on the sidelines when there's a chance to change the future, then you're the person we need.
When you register for the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk®, you're joining a nationwide community of thousands of people who are standing up and participating in the fight against this devastating disease.
Your journey to end Alzheimer's starts here – and it's so easy.
Memory Walk is the nation's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer care, support and research. Since 1989, Memory Walk has raised more than $260 million for the cause.
All Memory Walk donations benefit the Alzheimer's Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. The mission of the Alzheimer's Association is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
If the process below doesn’t work for you, call Bonni or Ron at 954-966-9805 for help with registration!
Steps to register online for the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk on Sat., March 20, at Hollywood North Beach Park (east end of Sheridan St.):
1. Go to www.memorywalks.com.
2. Click on Broward Memory Walk.
3. Click on Sign Up.
4. Read Waiver/Agreement and click on “I agree.”
5. Click on “Join a Team.”
6. Find “Meyerhoff Senior Center” in the team list, and click on “Join Team” next to Bonni Stephenson’s name.
7. Complete registration form.
8. Get confirmation, click on continue, and arrive at your Memory Walk headquarters then follow further instructions!.
Ah, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We've heard it so many times that we may have forgotten pertinent details. We remember clearly the younger son, the one who squanders his fortune in a foreign land and becomes so hungry and desperate that he yearns for swine food. We understand this part of the parable. Even if we haven't been the wastrel child, who among us has not occasionally envied the ease with which some of our society just do their own thing and give themselves to riotous living. We assume the younger son represents us as our worst sinner selves.
We forget that this story has two lost sons.
Yes, the older son is just as lost as the younger. Perhaps more so.
Look at his behavior and see if you recognize yourself. He has to find out from the servants what is going on. He hasn't been invited to the party (oh, that fear of being left out and uninvited! We think we outgrow it as we leave 7th grade, but we really never do). He has done all the right things, been steadfast, honored his father and society, and what does he get? Does he get a party? No!
Which child is more lost? The one who gives into his animal nature, who indulges in carnal pleasures? Or the one who shows himself to have all sorts of repressed anger, a well of resentment that erupts all over his poor father?
In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen says, "Looking deeply into myself and then around me at the lives of other people, I wonder which does more damage, lust or resentment?" (71). What a powerful question.
Nouwen sees this parable as being about love and how we're loved and how we're afraid that we won't be loved. We spend a lot of time looking for the approval of others. Nouwen says, "As long as I keep running about asking: 'Do you love me? Do you really love me?' I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with 'ifs.' The world says: 'Yes I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much'" (42). Obviously, we can't win this game.
Luckily, we don't have to win. God loves us regardless. Of course, learning this lesson of love may take us a lifetime. We have to force ourselves to the disciplines that will thaw our frozen hearts. Nouwen suggests, "Although we are incapable of liberating ourselves from our frozen anger, we can allow ourselves to be found by God and healed by his love through the concrete and daily practice of trust and gratitude" (84).
He goes on to say, "There is a very strong, dark voice in me that says the opposite: 'God isn't really interested in me, he prefers the repentant sinner who comes home after his wild escapades. He doesn't pay attention to me who has never left the house. He takes me for granted. I am not his favorite son. I don't expect him to give me what I really want" (84).
Yes, trust and gratitude can be difficult moods to sustain. But we're called to do that. And then we're called to work on a deeper transformation. We must become as full of love as the father in the parable.
The traditional approach to this parable is to see the Father character representing God, which is certainly true. But many of us assume we cannot love the way God can. Maybe not. But we have to try. Nouwen says, "Perhaps the most radical statement Jesus ever made is: 'Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.' . . . "what I am called to make true is that whether I am the younger or the elder son, I am the son of my compassionate Father. I am an heir. . . . The return to the Father is ultimately the challenge to become the Father" (123).
How on earth can we accomplish this? Nouwen suggests that we cultivate these three traits: "grief, forgiveness, and generosity" (128). To those I would add that we should commit ourselves to believing in resurrection. Believe in the possibility of second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Believe that the lost will be found. Believe that the Prodigal will return. Throw a fabulous party. And when you notice that someone is missing from the party, someone is standing in the shadows, stewing in resentment, anger, grief, envy--go get that person and invite them to the party. Remember that we are children of a God whose love we cannot begin to comprehend. Model that behavior.
BUTTERFLY GARDENING! Mark your calendars now Help always needed and desired. Donations to the butterfly Garden/Memorial Fund welcome and apreciated!
FRI March 19th 5PM to 6:30PM
THURS March 25th 10AM to noon
WED April 21st 11AM to 2PM
SAT May 22nd 10AM to 1PM
Two Fridays rermain: March 12th and 19th
In Charter Hall, beginning at 6:30PM
The Soup, Bread and Salad part is potluck - bring what you want to share.
Our bread this week will be a simple Struan
The Bible Study dives into the turning point in John's Gospel and the story that puts us on the road to the Passion: The Raising of Lazarus.
STRUAN (by Peter Reinhart from his book “Bread Upon the Waters”)
Makes 1 loaf
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
3 tablespoons uncooked polenta (coarse cornmeal)
3 tablespoons rolled oats (or instant oats)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons wheat bran (untoasted if possible)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 1/4 tablespoons active dry yeast dissolved in 4 tablespoons warm water)
3 tablespoons cooked brown rice (this is a small amount – you can make some and freeze the rest for use in your next loaf or make the bread when you have some leftover rice or just omit)
1 1/2 tablespoons honey (non stick spray on your measuring spoon makes the honey slide right off!)
1/3 cup buttermilk (low-fat or whole milk can be substituted)
Approximately 3/4 cup water (room temperature)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional; for the top)
Mix all the ingredients, including the salt and yeast, in a large bowl, stirring to distribute. Add the cooked rice, honey and buttermilk, and mix. Then add 1/2 cup of water, reserving the rest for adjustments during kneading. With your hands squeeze the ingredients together until they make a ball, adding more water as needed, until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the dough ball. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and turn the ball out of the bowl and begin kneading. Add additional water or flour as needed.
Kneading by Hand
It will take about 10 to 15 minutes to knead by hand. The dough will change before your eyes, lightening in color, becoming gradually more elastic and evenly grained. The finished dough should be tacky but not sticky, lightly golden, stretchy and elastic rather than porridge-like. When you push the heels of your hands into the dough, it should give way but not tear. If it flakes or crumbles, add a little more water; if it is sticky, sprinkle in more flour.
Clean out and dry the mixing bowl. Wipe the inside of the bowl with a little oil, or mist with vegetable oil pan spray. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap or place the bowl in a plastic bag. Allow the dough to ferment in a warm place for about 90 minutes, or until it has roughly doubled in size (it may take a shorter or longer time, depending on the temperature).
Forming the Loaf
This recipe makes 1 regular-size loaf of bread (about 1 1/2 pounds finished weight). Because the dough is relaxed and supple, and already scaled for one loaf, it can be shaped without first rounding and resting.
Shape the dough into a loaf by pressing it out from the center with the heels of the hands, gently flattening it into a rough rectangle and punching it down, degassing it. Then roll the dough up into a cigar shape, and a seam forms. Tuck the end flaps into the seam, and pinch the seam closed with either your fingers or the edge of your hand, sealing it as best you can. Place the loaf, seam side down, in a greased 9” by 4 1/2” bread pan. Spray the top with water and sprinkle on the poppy seeds. Cover and allow the dough to proof until it crests over the top of the pan, approximately 90 minutes.
Baking and Cooling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (300 degrees if convection). Bake the loaf for approximately 45 minutes. The loaf should dome nicely and be dark gold. The sides and bottom should be a uniform light golden brown and there should be an audible thwack (or thunk) when you tap the bottom of the loaf. An insta-read thermometer should read 190 degree when placed into the center of the loaf. If the loaf is dark on the top but too light or soft on the sides and bottom, return the loaf, not in the pan, to the oven, and finish baking it for a few minutes more, until it is thwackable. Bear in mind that the bread will cook much faster once it is removed from the pan, so keep a close eye on it.
Allow the bread to cool on a rack thoroughly, at least 40 minutes, before slicing it.
ST PATRICK's DAY
Sunday March 14th Authentic St Patrick's Day Luncheon beginning at 12:30PM
Luncheon Tickets will be available beginning Sunday March 7th after both services.
Or See Earline LaCroix or Sam Newton
FUNERAL SERVICE FOR EVELYN SEGUINE
The Funeral Service for Evelyn Seguine will be Tuesday March 9th at Trinity. Viewing at 6:30PM and Service at 7PM with some lite fare and dessert provided by WECA in the fellowship hall following the service. Those desiring to assist with the food should contact Earline LaCroix.
The WELCA Meeting and Men's Meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening have been cancelled .
Please join us and why not stay for the special luncheon, for a modest cost, in honor of St Patrick's Day!
OPENING RESPONSES The Children gather with Pastor Keith to help welcome God among us
We light a light in the name of the Maker,who lit the world and breathed the breath of life for us… We light a light in the name of the Son,Who saved the world and stretched out his hand to us… We light a light in the name of the Spirit,Who encompasses the world And blesses our souls with yearning…
We Light three lights for the Trinity of Love; God above us, God beside us, God beneath us; the Beginning, the End, the Everlasting One.
SOUP, BREAD, and SALAD SUPPER With Bread Baking and BIBLE STUDY
Three Fridays March 5th, 12th and 19th
In Charter Hall, beginning at 6:30PM
The Soup, Bread and Salad part is potluck - bring what you want to share.
The Bread Part begins simply: Learn how to make the bread we have been using for communion for the past decade. Samples, of course. It is Oatmeal Wheat. Recipe Follows.
The Bible Study dives into the turning point in John's Gospel and the story that puts us on the road to the Passion: The Raising of Lazarus.
OATMEAL WHEAT BREAD
Makes Two Loaves
Combine in a large bowl:
1 cup oats (regular or quick cooking)
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons Butter or regular Margarine (not spread!)
Pour 2 cups of boiling water over mixture
Let cool to room temp.
1 packet of active dry yeast and ½ cup of warm (not hot!) water (90 -110 degrees) into the room temperature mixture and wait about 10 minutes or so until frothy and yeasty smelling
Stir in 5 cups of flour (bread flour is best or unbleached all purpose)
If using a heavy duty stand mixer, like a Kitchenaid, carefully measure the flour into the bowl and then add the cooled yeast/oat mixture and mix on the lowest setting. After a few minutes if the mixture seems too stiff add a tablespoon or two of water, if too wet, a little bit of flour. After six or seven minutes remove dough to counter and finish the kneading by adjusting the dough with a bit more flour or water depending upon its condition.
If kneading by hand take a good 10 minutes and add a bit of water or flour as above if the dough seems too dry or too wet after five minutes or so. Dough should be tacky and smooth, not sticky. Remember, if too sticky knead in more flour.
In either kneading case, shape into a ball and place into a bowl greased with cooking spray. Spray top of dough lightly with the spray then cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled on your counter (about 2 hours).
After the dough doubles, remove it from the container and Divide dough into two pieces. Shape into two loaves by flattening each into a rectangle and rolling it up into a tight cylinder using the short side than sealing the edge by pinching the seams with your fingers and folding the ends under. Place into two greased (with cooking spray) 9x5x3in bread pans. After placing into the greased bread pans, spray the top of the loaf lightly with cooking spray and Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise on the counter until they crest the top of bread pan by one inch. Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. When dough has crested pans carefully remove plastic wrap and place pans in center of oven.
Bake for 35-40 minutes - the loaves should read 185-190 degrees internally with an instant read thermometer placed into the loaf.
Remove loaves carefully fro the bread pans and Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Resist the temptation to cut into them early, it will ruin the bread. They are still cooking as they cool.
FOOD NEEDED TO FEED SOME COLLEGE KIDS USING THEIR SPRING BREAK FOR MISSION in places like Guatamala and the Dominican Republic
Friday March 5th Dinner - They will be arriving very late - so it needs to be something that can be heated up easily or kept in the fridge.
Saturday Morning VERY early Breakfast - they will be leaving at 3:30AM - so bagels, cream cheese, fruit, yogurt, granola/breakfast bars, OJ Apple Juice, Milk, muffins, doughnuts
A second group arrives very late SAT night and we'll need breakfast stuff for SUN morning to feed them before they head off to the airport as well.
A secondary need is additional inflatible mattresses - if you have any you can lend us for a week - please let u know by contacting the Office or Pastor Keith
In this week's Gospel, we get the parable of the fig tree, that poor fig tree who still hasn't produced fruit even though it's been 3 years. This Gospel gives us a space to consider our view of God and our view of ourselves.
Which vision of God is the one in your head? We could see God as the man who says, "Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?" If we see God that way, and if we see ourselves as the fig tree, that's a scary proposition; we've got a few years to produce before God gives up on us.
A traditional approach to this parable might see God as the impatient one, and Jesus as the vinedresser who pleads the case for the poor little fig tree. I know that Trinitarian theology might lead us this direction, but I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of a God who gives up on humanity. Everything in Scripture (and the experiences of those who walked this path before us) shows us a God that pursues us, going so far as to take on human flesh and walk amongst us. This doesn't sound like a God that gives up after 3 years.
A modern (post-modern?) approach to this parable might be to see the man and the vinedresser as parts of the same personality. How often are you impatient with the parts of yourself that aren't changing quickly enough? Are you kind to yourself, like the vinedresser? Or does your inner voice threaten you with destruction if you don't change? I know that some of you are saying, "This sounds quite schizophrenic." To this comment, I would say, try to observe your own inner thoughts. I hope that you're always patient and kind, but I've been on a diet more than once, and I know how quickly the self-loathing voice comes forward.
This parable gives us a hopeful view of our spiritual lives, if we live with it a little longer. Many of us no longer interact with the earth in any way, which is a shame. I wonder how many aspects of this imagery we lose as we move from being a nation of farmers and gardeners to a nation of people trapped by pavement. We tend to think of plants as always growing, always producing. We forget that for any growth to take place, a period of fallowness is necessary.
Maybe you've felt yourself in a fallow place spiritually. Or worse, maybe you've felt yourself sliding backwards. Maybe you started Lent with a fire in your heart, and you've burned out early. Maybe you've spent years thinking about church development, wondering what the Pentecostals have that you don't. Maybe you haven't been good at transforming yourself into a peace-loving person.
Look at that parable again. The fig tree doesn't just sit there while everyone gathers around, waiting for something to happen. The vine dresser gives it extra attention. The vine dresser digs around it (to give the roots room to grow?) and gives it extra manure (ah, the magic of fertilizer). We, too, can be the vinedresser to our spiritual lives. And we don't have to resort to heroic measures. We don't have to start off by running away to a religious commune and devoting ourselves to God. Just a little spiritual manure is all it takes.
You've got a wide variety of spiritual tools in your toolchest. Pick up your Bible. Read a little bit each day (to echo the words of Isaiah, train yourself to hunger after more than bread). Find some time to pray more. Find something that irritates you, and make that be your call to prayer (for example, every time I hear someone's thumping car stereo, I could see that as a tolling bell, calling me to pray). If you can do nothing else, slow down and breathe three deep breaths. Do that at least once a day. Turn your anxieties over to God. When you're surfing the web, go to a site or a blog that makes you feel enriched as a Christian (as opposed to all those sites that make you angry or anxious). Give some spare change to those people who stand in the medians of the roadways. Smile more--you are the light of the world, after all. Time to start acting like it.