Sermon: Being Fruitful Fig Trees.
“And Moses said unto God, ‘Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’” [Exodus 3:11]
Have you ever noticed how very human the people in the Bible really are? These are NOT perfect people. They are people just like you or me. They suffer from the same fears, the same anxieties and the same feelings of inadequacy. Yet, we tend to think of them as far superior to ourselves.
This is also true with our images of the saints. Many of them lead exemplary lives, but many were quite human. The only difference is that all were called by God for a mission here on earth.
In our Old Testament lesson, we have a perfect example of someone whom God has called but who does not believe that he is the right choice. This is Moses. In our passage for today, Moses sees the burning bush, and from this bush, God calls Moses to one of the most important missions of the entire Bible. Moses is called to free the Israelites from slavery. God says to Moses:
“Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.”
Moses’ response is classic. He says,
‘Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’
Now, I don’t know what you think, but to me it seems as if Moses isn’t being very honest here. Moses was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in the court of Pharaoh. Doesn’t it make sense that God would want to use him in this way? I do not know if Moses is trying to lie to God or lie to himself, but what is clear is that Moses is trying to avoid this call of God’s.
Moses does not want to go back to Pharaoh, not because he is afraid of Pharaoh, but because he is afraid that he is incapable. He doesn’t believe he is able to do what God is asking him to do.
Later, in the next chapter, Moses tries again not to go to Pharaoh. He says that no one will believe that God has sent him. God then gives Moses two powers, one is to turn his staff into a serpent and back again; the other is to make his hand leprous and then clean again. But this is still not enough.
Finally, Moses makes a statement that has been in the back of his head all along. And it is the real reason he said, “Who am I.” Moses confesses that he feels inadequate for the job because he is not eloguent. He says that he is slow of speech and of a slow tongue. Many have interpreted this statement to mean that Moses spoke with a stutter. However, whether Moses spoke with a stutter or just felt inarticulate is unimportant. What is important is the fact that Moses didn’t think he was the right man for the job.
Although Moses feels inadequate, God once again tries to assure Moses that he is, in fact, the right choice. But Moses cannot be consoled, and God begins to be angry with Moses. However, God decides to appease Moses, and He allows Moses to bring his brother, Aaron, with him when he meets with the Pharaoh.
Isn’t this how many of us react when God calls us? Don’t we sit there and say to God, “Who am I?” In other words, isn’t our first reaction to God’s call usually something akin to “Are you kidding?”
These questions are not one of disrespect. I do not believe anyone truly believes God has made a mistake. But still it is hard for us to accept God’s call because we KNOW our shortcomings. We KNOW our sins. And we cannot believe that God could overlook these sins and choose us when there seems to be many more qualified applicants for whatever position to which God is calling us. We just don’t understand.
A three year old boy was putting on his shoes by himself. His mother noticed that the left shoe was on the right foot. She said, “Son, your shoes are on the wrong feet.” The boy looked up at his mother with a raised brow and said, “Don’t kid me Mom. They’re the only feet I got!”
The truth is that God is constantly calling us to things that are well past our abilities, but if we trust God, He will make up the difference. He will give us what we need to be His proper servant. And, we need not fear and we need not worry.
However, many people do not answer when God calls. Many ignore His plea. And Jesus’ parable today speaks to this issue:
He spake also this parable; “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, ‘Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?’ And he answering said unto him, ‘Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.’”
When God calls us, if we heed His call, we will bear fruit. If we follow Christ and do what He asks of us, we will produce those things of which God wants all of us to produce. But if we do not, then we WILL be like the barren fig tree, and God will not be patient with us forever.
But, who does God call? Well, here is the funny thing – He calls us all! Every one of us has been called. As St. Paul tells us, we are all called to the priesthood of Christian men, women, and children! Those who believe have chosen to answer. Those who do not believe have turned a deaf ear. But there is more. Of those who believe, we inevitably have two sub-groups. We have the group who, no matter how far fetch the call or how much we try to avoid it, in the end, we accept that call. We have a lot in common with our friend, Moses.
But there is a second group of believers. These are the believers that, when called, dismiss the call. For whatever reason, these people turn a deaf ear, even though they DO believe. They may not trust God. They may not trust themselves. They may not have enough faith to believe that all things are possible with God. These are also barren fig trees.
But, sometimes it isn’t fear that prevents us from answering God’s call. It is inconvenience. We do not want to do it because it upsets our plans. It takes us “out of our way.” It makes us go where we don’t want to go or do what we don’t want to do. So, we never answer. These too are barren fig trees.
So, which group do we fall in? Are we people, like Moses, who are incredulous but eventually come around? Or are we like the barren fig tree? Only we can answer for ourselves. But, just remember, with God all things ARE possible. So, if He calls, even though we may think there is no possible way, if it is truly of God, things will work out. God will make it work. And then we may know the joy of being a fruitful fig tree. And when we do, we too will be able to say:
PRAISE the LORD, O my soul; * and all that is within me, praise his holy Name.