Sermon for Sunday February 28th, 2016, the Third Sunday in Lent
The Lessons: Exodus 3:1-15; Ps. 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-3; Luke 13:1-9
Text: Luke 13:6-9
Theme: Now is the time to turn over a new leaf
To turn over a new leaf is an expression from the 1500’s meaning to make an improvement in one’s behavior. “Leaf” refers to the page of a book, and a new leaf is a new page. Now in Lent, Christ through His Church, calls us to turn over a new leaf, and to make a fresh start in our walk with Him.
THE PARABLE OF THE UNFRUITFUL FIG TREE (LUKE 13:6-9)
In the Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree, the owner of the vineyard complains to the vinedresser that a particular fig tree has been unfruitful for three years, and orders that it be cut down. The vinedresser asks that the fig tree be left alone for another year while he tills the ground around it and fertilizes it with animal dung. If it still fails to bear fruit, then it shall be cut down. The meaning of the parable is not explained, but the fact that it follows Jesus’ repeated warning, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3 & 5), ought to give us a clue to its meaning .
The fig tree is a symbol for Israel used by Jesus in various parables. In this Parable, the vineyard represents Palestine, and the owner, God. In the three years of the Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry on earth, Israel was unfruitful, but the Holy Spirit, if the vinedresser represents Him, intercedes for Israel, and an extension of time is granted, perhaps until the Roman army besieged and destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. The cutting down of the tree represented the destruction of Jerusalem and her temple.
Yet the Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree is also a warning to the Church, a warning to be fruitful. On a fig tree the fruit buds appear before the leaf buds, and the fruit is discernible, before the leaves. What I noticed about fig trees when I was a child, since we always had them in the gardens of the houses where we lived, is that a fig tree can fail to bear fruit simply because ants or termites have gnawed through the roots and the base of the tree.
During this Lent, we have a God-given opportunity to examine ourselves and our lives, to see whether we are producing fruit for the Lord. We must not assume that we have a long time on earth to make the corrections in our lives that God requires. As St. Paul reminds us, “Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, KJV), and he says this in the context of his warning that we should not receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1). Since Israel was granted a time to repent and produce the fruit God required, the Church also is given an age of grace. How we use the time allotted to us on earth is up to us. But St. Paul instructs the Ephesians in Ephesians 5:15-17:
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Christ has redeemed us, not to live trivial, self-indulgent lives, but lives centered in His life, watered by the fountain of His Holy Spirit, and directed by that same Spirit, who also orders our priorities according to God’s Word.
Here is some contemporary advice about ordering priorities:
Tim Sanders, former chief solutions officer at Yahoo! and author of Love Is the Killer App, has this to say:
Take your life and all the things you think are important, and put them in one of three categories, represented by glass, metal, and rubber.
Things of rubber, when you drop them, will bounce back. No harm is done when these things are dropped. So, for instance, if I miss a Seahawks’ game, my life will bounce along fine. Missing a game or a season of football will not alter my marriage or my spiritual life. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em.
Things of metal, when dropped, create a lot of noise. But you can recover from the drop. If you miss a meeting at work, you can get the CliffsNotes. If you don’t balance your checkbook and lose track of how much you have in your account, and the bank notifies you of an overdraft – that will create some noise in your life, but you can recover from it.
Things of glass, when dropped, shatter into pieces and will never be the same again. They can be glued back together, but they are altered forever. They may be missing some pieces, and they probably can’t hold water again without leaking. The consequences of this brokenness will forever affect how the glass is used. You’re the only person who knows what those things are that you can’t afford to drop. More than likely, they have a lot to do with your relationship with spouse, children, family, and friends.
(Tim Sanders, www.sanderssays.typepad.com, August 25, 2006)
We should add “our relationship with God,” for the whole course of our life can go wrong, if it is not directed by the Holy Spirit.
Today the Lord Jesus Christ calls you to turn to Him, listen to Him, obey Him, and be fruitful with the harvest that the Holy Spirit produces, that of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). But to produce this fruit, you must let the Holy Spirit speak to your soul and you must follow His commands with respect to how you should live your life. You must let the pure word of God, the written word of Holy Scripture, take root in your life, through daily study, reading of the Bible, prayer and obedience.