by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, February 24, 2013:
Luke 13:1-9, 31-35
optional reading: Psalm 122 or 122:6
I don't have much history with sermons that implore us to repent. I grew up as a good Lutheran girl and learned that God has already forgiven me. I struggled with the concept of grace; if I'm already forgiven, why should I be good?
I don't want to wrestle with that particular question this morning. Whole fields of Philosophy and Literature and Psychology and Sociology can give us a wide variety of answers. No, I want to think about this issue of turning around and returning, verbs which are at the root of the word "repent."
In many passages, Jesus implores his listeners to leave the path that they're on and to choose activities that will lead to new life. The prophets that come before and after Jesus have trumpeted a similar message. The end of the Narrative Lectionary reading for this week shows that Jesus knows that his listeners will not pay him attention any more than they did the prophets of old.
But Jesus is clear: repent we must. Jesus didn't come to earth to get us into Heaven after we die. Jesus came to earth to show us how to live so that we create the Kingdom of God right here on earth now.
Those of us who cling to the concept of grace like to think that we have plenty of time. Sure, we'll take care of our neighbor. But first, we've got some movies to watch. We'll help feed the poor--right after we get back from our vacation. We've got a grueling work schedule, so maybe we can just arrange for our credit card to automatically send money to Lutheran World Relief.
It might help us to think about that fig tree that gets a reprieve. The fig tree doesn't get an indefinite amount of time to bear fruit.
I'm not about to suggest that God will chop us down and send us to the flames of hell. Frankly, God doesn't have to do that. We marinate in the bad choices that we've made, and that's punishment enough.
But the parable of the fig tree suggests ways out of our barrenness. We could think of pruning. What in our lives needs to be pruned so that we can bear good fruit? We could start with a bad habit or two keeping us from the life God wants us to have and build from there.
Or think of fertilizer. What would enrich the soil of our lives? More prayer, more inspiring reading, stopping each day to take a real break for a meal together: the list is endless. Choose one and begin to enrich the soil in which you're planted.
Like ancient people, we kill the prophets of God in all sorts of ways. We like to think that we'd have recognized Jesus had he appeared to us, but would we? Now is a good time to tend the fig tree lives so that we can truly repent and choose the way of Jesus.