The gospel text for Sunday, March 3, 2013, the third one of Lent 2013 is:
New Century Version (NCV)
Change Your Hearts
13 At that time some people were there who told Jesus that Pilate[a] had killed some people from Galilee while they were worshiping. He mixed their blood with the blood of the animals they were sacrificing to God. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think this happened to them because they were more sinful than all others from Galilee? 3 No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will be destroyed as they were! 4 What about those eighteen people who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them? Do you think they were more sinful than all the others who live in Jerusalem?5 No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will all be destroyed too!”
The Useless Tree
6 Jesus told this story: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking for some fruit on the tree, but he found none. 7 So the man said to his gardener, ‘I have been looking for fruit on this tree for three years, but I never find any. Cut it down. Why should it waste the ground?’ 8 But the servant answered, ‘Master, let the tree have one more year to produce fruit. Let me dig up the dirt around it and put on some fertilizer. 9 If the tree produces fruit next year, good. But if not, you can cut it down.’”
#1: from Ann S. Howard & Barbara Brown Taylor:
Jesus is inviting them, Barbara Brown Taylor suggests, into vulnerability. Writing for The Christian Century, she said, “It is not a bad thing for them to feel the full fragility of their lives. It is not a bad thing for them to count their breaths in the dark — not if it makes them turn toward the light.
“It is that turning he wants for them, which is why he tweaks their fear,” she writes. ” . . . That torn place your fear has opened up inside of you is a holy place. Look around while you are there. Pay attention to what you feel. It may hurt you to stay there and it may hurt you to see, but it is not the kind of hurt that leads to death. It is the kind that leads to life.
“Depending on what you want from God, this may not sound like good news . . . But for those of us who have discovered that we cannot make life safe nor God tame, it is gospel enough. What we can do is turn our faces to the light. That way, whatever befalls us, we will fall the right way.”
Take it from me, Jesus could be saying in this fig tree parable, we cannot make life safe nor God tame. But in the darkness is the guide to the dawn; in the emptiness is the way to fulfillment; in the losing is the gain; in the dying is new life; in the folly is the wisdom—the wisdom of the cross. So in this Lenten season, take a look at your own torn-open place, your unanswerable question, your fruitless fig tree. Sit with the paradox, hold the tension. In the dying is new life.
#2: from Donna Papenhausen (this graphic is on our St. Andrew bulletin for Sunday:
#3: from Emily Dickinson:
Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise;
As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
#4: from Frederick Buechner:
To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, “You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you’ve done and though we may both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend.
May you live life,
may you breathe it,
may you teach it,
may you give it,
may you receive it,
may you honor it,
may you hope it,
may you act on it,
may you love it,
may you be it . . .