Possibilities - Reflections 3-17-2022

Texts for Sunday March 20, 2022
Third Sunday in Lent

Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

The Gospel text for Sunday starts “At that time”. 

 “At what time?”, you might ask. You’ll need to go all the way back into the final verses of Chapter 11 through 12 to find out what “that time” is at the beginning of 13. Jesus has raised the ire of lawyers, scribes, and Pharisees in many and various ways. Then, of course, a crowd gathers around to watch and to take part. Through chapter 12, Jesus alternately addresses his disciples and the crowd.

Chapter 13, then, begins with the crowd around Jesus gossiping about the misfortunes that had recently befallen some other folks. The first incident involved Galileans who were apparently killed during worship by the Roman governor. The second seems to have been an unfortunate architectural disaster in Jerusalem. The crowd was presuming - or maybe hoping? - that the extraordinary tragedies were the results of extraordinary sins committed by the victims. The crowd was expecting – maybe hoping? – that Jesus would confirm their belief. Bad things happen to bad people.

That’s certainly not new. We blame the victims all the time; that way we stay in control and out of the picture. If the good are to be rewarded and the bad to be punished, then we can keep it from happening to us. Whether it is political oppression or natural disaster, they somehow deserved what they got.

Jesus did not confirm that for them. Jesus knows that we are first and foremost worried about ourselves. He essentially said, so you think that you are better than these people? And he knows that because of our fear, we really want him to look at those people and not too closely at us.

Jesus pulls out the big “R” – repentance. Do you really want to say they got what they deserved? Exam your thought patterns. Look into your heart. Turn away from those destructive ideas; turn around and look toward God.

At this point, I’m going to digress a moment from the Gospel to say that the fabulous text from Isaiah this week also asks us to examine of lives. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, or your labor for that what does not satisfy? If you turn around and look back to God, you see a feast for all people! Of good and rich food without price…a free feast!

Back to the Gospel - Jesus goes on to tell a story about a problematic fig tree and its proposed fate. How does this parable serve as a response to those gossiping about others and we who so quickly point fingers at others and so rarely look inward? Parables often don’t answer directly. And if you sit with the parable for a while, you might start hearing other questions.

The story certainly creates an element of anxiety. Am I working hard enough, bearing enough fruit? Translation: Am I bound for the axe? And does that prove that bad things happen to those who are bad?

So how do you see God? Is God the owner, the gardener, the manure?

What does the story tell us about that fig tree deemed worthless? By what standard do you measure the worthiness of something… or someone? And what do we do about our assessment that something or someone is worthless?

My favorite response in this story is putting manure on it. Have you ever felt like there was or is some, you know, manure in your life? What’s the impact? Is there any grace in stepping back to consider that impact? Healing? Resolution? Release?

What other possibilities are offered? More time? Patience? Hope? Nurture?

Go ahead. Sit with this text for awhile. Re-read the Isaiah text. 

Isaiah 55: 3
Incline your ear, and come to me;
  listen, so that you may live.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245