There are two different sermons on this page
Sunday, 3 Mar 2013; Lent 3
Luke 13 1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." 6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, `For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 8" `Sir,' the man replied, `leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "
When things go wrong we look for someone to blame. The BBC had an Inquiry about Jimmy Savile. More recently the Egyptian prime minister ordered an immediate investigation into the hot air balloon crash which claimed the lives of 19 tourists in Luxor.
Sometimes blame can carry with it the prospect of financial gain. "Where there is blame there is a claim", is one advertising line by ambulance chasers.
In Jesus' day there was an understanding that if you had an accident it was your fault, because it was God's judgement on you for having done something wrong. Jesus used two recent examples to state that it wasn't the victims' fault.
Today people are more likely to blame God for something going wrong, and this is one of the matters we will be considering in The Reason for God course, starting tonight.
When you point a finger, you have three pointing back to yourself. Rather than looking at who is to blame, Jesus is saying, use this to reflect on your own mortality and turn to God before it is too late. For none of us can assume that we will be alive next year, or even tomorrow.
Repentance involves a U turn. A turning from what we know to be wrong to turning to follow Jesus. To obey his teaching and copy his example. For the true Christian this is a continuing and continuous process. We need to remind ourselves again and again of God's love and faithfulness to us and to hold onto this as we live our lives. We have to produce fruit, to live better lives. God's Spirit will gives us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We will produce fruit not to earn God's favour but because we have received his undeserved favour. This is what the parable about the fig tree in the vineyard was about.
Jesus painted this picture of a fig tree planted in a vineyard. The vines were there to make money for the owner and the fig tree was there because the owner liked figs and wanted some for himself. However, after three years it had produced no fruit. The owner considered cutting it down. It was taking up soil that he could be growing vines on and earning money. The gardener said give it another year and I will dig around it and fertilise the soil. If this fails, we can cut it down next year.
This was a picture of Israel, a special people, God's nation, surrounded by others, but it wasn't producing the fruit God wanted it to.
In the Epistle reading we have examples of this from Israel's history. Paul starts out by outlining the blessings God’s people had enjoyed in being delivered by God from Egypt, led and fed by God in the wilderness. Yet they worshipped a golden calf, ate a meal sacrificed to it, and danced like pagans did before their false gods. On another occasion they committed spiritual and sexual sin when they fornicated as they worshipped the god of the Moabites. They also murmured and grumbled against God.
The lesson to be learned from this is that God’s people should not be tempted to do what the people around them are doing, but to trust in God and not go after false things that cannot provide what He alone can.
This passage also tells us God will help his people resist and escape this temptation. He does that by His Spirit and by His word, the Bible. In the first week of Lent we saw how Jesus used the Bible to expose the idolatry that the devil was encouraging him to commit.
Israel would add to their sins by rejecting God's son, Jesus.
God was patient with His people time and time again, but he did discipline them for their sins and judge them. For example, in 70AD Jerusalem was raised to the ground and its inhabitants slaughtered because it had rejected Jesus.
Twice in the gospel, in verses 3 & 5, Jesus said, "I tell you,... unless you repent, you too will all perish." To be a true Christian we need to repent, turn from our sin and turn to God. This has to be accompanied by fruit, evidence of our relationship with Him. Not worshipping created things, not fornicating, not grumbling, not rejecting Jesus but putting Him first in our lives.
As part of god's people, the church, we are also called to produce fruit. During Lent this year we are thinking and praying about what God is calling us to be and do as His people in Knebworth. Can I encourage you to commit to this process by filling in the Questionnaire forms and putting the meeting on Sunday 21st April when we discuss this in your diary or calendar.
God is working among us. I was very encouraged by the first Planning Group meeting for the Children and Families Outreach Worker we had last Monday. We have planned to appoint a worker in June to start in September 2013.
Please continue to pray for this and for God to reveal His purposes to us. Please keep repenting, turning to God again and again, living for Him and producing fruit in your life.
14/3/04 Year C Lent 3 : Luke 13:1-9
13 1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." 6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, `For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 8" `Sir,' the man replied, `leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "
Like every parent I have often had the words, 'Its not fair !' said to me. What this really means is, 'I'm not getting my own way !'
On at least one occasion I have retorted that the world isn't a fair place. After all, is it fair that thousands of people die from earthquakes every year, that thousands of children starve to death every day because of their government's unpayable debt, and that some people happened to be on a Spanish train carriage where a bomb was detonated ?
In Jesus' day people believed that a tragedy was God's judgment for a sin that had been committed. So if a tragedy befell someone it was their responsibility ! We see evidence of this at the start of John 9 :1 As he ( Jesus ) went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus... Job's friends are another example of this thinking.
Jesus opposed this thinking in today's gospel. He used two examples of disasters and insisted that those who suffered were no worse anyone else. Pilate had attacked some Galileans and mixed their blood with their sacrifices, something that would have provoked religious outrage amongst the Jews. Siloam was to the south east of Jerusalem and a tower had collapsed there killing eighteen people. Today we would set up an enquiry and look to blame someone, probably the architect or builder. Then they blamed the people who the tower had fallen on ! Jesus said this was not right.
The reason why such things happen is not God's displeasure with individual sinners but because we live in a world that has rejected God's perfect will. Therefore, there will be things such as accidents, illnesses, suffering and death because sin is in the world. Jesus said, you should use these reminders to examine your own life to ensure that you are right with God.
So, on hearing of the news of the bomb blasts in Spain we can sympathise and pray for those who are bereaved or injured. Denounce those who carried out this atrocity. But we should also look at ourselves and ask, "If my life was taken suddenly today, would I be ready to face God? Would God be able to look back at my life and say that, despite the failures, my life had been one of faithfulness and growth?"
A man borrowed a book from an acquaintance. As he read through it, he was intrigued to find parts of the book underlined with the letters YBH written in the margin. When he returned the book to the owner, he asked what the YBH meant. The owner replied that the underlined paragraphs were sections of the book that he basically agreed with. They gave him hints on how to improve himself and pointed out truths that he wished to incorporate into his life. However, the letters YBH stood for "Yes, but how?"
How should we live for God?
Jesus uses the parable of the fig tree to show believers that the Christian life should be a circle of repentance, growth and fruitbearing.
Firstly by repenting. Turning from everything that we know to be wrong to follow the way of Jesus. A way that brings forgiveness, freedom from the power of sin and a new way of living. Then we can see death as a gateway into a new, perfect life, free of sin, sickness, accidents, death or mourning and not a terrible accident to be dreaded. Repentance should be a continuing process for every Christian as our lives come under the Lordship of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. "Yes, but how?" you may ask
There needs to be a time of reflection and a work of God's Spirit. Sometimes the need for repentance may be blindingly obvious. On other occasions we may need to reflect upon the day or week, asking God to show us where we have gone wrong, asking for forgiveness and for the strength to amend our lives. We can do this in our private devotions. I remember from my Confirmation Preparation the words ACTS to help our daily devotions.
A for Adoration; C for Confession; T for Thanksgiving; and S for Supplication.
In church services we have the Confession. This is often preceded by Jesus' summary of the law.
"The first commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt,
who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained
that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during
a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed
down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, "I murdered my grandmother
this morning." The guests responded with phrases like, "Marvellous!
Keep up the good work. We are proud of you.
God bless you, sir." It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, "I'm sure she had it coming."
Jesus' summary of the law exposes
our failures and our need for forgiveness and for change but do we listen
and act? Do we let the words pass us by on a Sunday without making a
difference to our lives? Do we take seriously the need to reflect, repent,
seek forgiveness and resolve to change our ways? In the light of Jesus'
words is God calling us to repent of anything individually or as a church
during this time of Lent ?
This week I was listening to a
discussion on the radio of the dangers posed by advertising fast food,
especially those targeting children and young people. One of the points
that was made was that you cannot pass legislation that will force people
to eat well or exercise more. Another motivation is needed, one that
comes from within.
When we become Christians God comes and lives inside us by His Spirit. This is what sets Christianity apart. Other religions say, 'Here is a set a rules. Go and live by them.' Christianity involves God living within us and changing us from within. This is centred on our personal relationship with God the Father, through the life death and resurrection of Jesus the Son, brought about by the work of God the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin and enables them to follow God's ways. We cannot assume that everything will happen automatically and we do not have to work at our relationship with God. Like the people who met Franklin Roosevelt we need time to listen and understand what God is saying to us. Individually and as a church.
I would like to suggest two reasons why we may not be willing to change.
First, we are set in our ways and do not think it will not do us any good. Jesus said he had come to bring life in all its fullness, John 10:10. We were created to have a personal relationship with God and we will not find our true destiny until we come to know him for ourselves. Even when we come to faith that relationship has to mature which involves a continuing handing over of our lives to Jesus. Any relationship that is healthy grows through a combination of commitment, hard work, and sacrifice. Through knowing God we can enjoy peace, answered prayer, forgiveness, a reason for living and a confidence in dying.
Secondly, we think it will not do us any harm. We have a God who will one day judge the living and the dead. Those who have not repented will be separated from God for ever. In the meantime God is patient and give people more than enough time to change. This is what the parable of the fig tree is about. It was undoubtedly told by Jesus against the Jews who were often likened to a plant like a fig tree or a vine. The plant's destruction was often a symbol of God's judgment
The question for the owner of the vineyard was how long would he allow his soil, moisture and nutrients to be used without bearing fruit. The question for God is how long does he wait until repentance comes to a nation, a church, or an individual.
Yesterday evening millions of people
watched their television sets thinking that they had a chance of winning
the National Lottery. This morning more people would have died overnight
from a heart attack than won the lottery. It is a sober reminder that
the human race has a 100% mortality rate, but, when death comes few
people will be ready for it. So we need to reflect upon our own
During the making of Ben-Hur, Charlton
Heston worked long hours with stunt trainers, learning to drive a chariot
for the film's crucial chariot race. He improved greatly in his mastery
over the horses and rig, but finally became convinced that the task
was more of a challenge than he'd initially anticipated. So he
approached the legendary film director Cecil B. De Mille about the scene.
Mr. De Mille', he said, I've worked very hard at mastering this rig. I think I can drive it convincingly in the scene, but I don't think I can win the race.'
After a moment's silence, De Mille looked at Heston, smiled and said, 'You just drive, I'll direct.' And what was the result? The chariot race became one of the most memorable highlights of the entire movie.
We don't need to know all the answers. We just need to know that we've fully obeyed the last instruction God gave us. Once we know that we can just drive and let God direct!
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous,
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
Who's In Charge Here?
A colleague shared about a church he served
in Tennessee where an eccentric and flamboyant elder impressed him with
her intense commitment to the faith. She did not have a pietistic bone
in her body, but her devotion was nonetheless clear and articulate.
One evening at a dinner party in her home we were animatedly discussing
some theological idea. In the midst of the give and take her teenage
daughter, probably frustrated with all of the high-blown discussion
of religion, asked, "Mother, you talk about religion all the time.
Why are you so religious anyway?" This query brought a loud hush
to the dining table. Her mother paused dramatically, pushed her chair
back from the table, stood and responded, "Every morning before
you are awake, I rise and walk into the living room. I lift my arms
and ask, `Who's in charge here?' The answer always comes back: `Not
you!' That's why I am religious. Because I am not in charge!" Religious
life begins with the realization that we are not in charge, and from
there we can proceed to align ourselves to the One who is in charge.
Jesus is declaring to the disciples: Go into the world knowing who is
in charge and what it will mean to act upon that knowledge!
Jesus is clear, however, that to act on that knowledge is not always easy.
Certainly Mother Theresa was one of the greatest
spiritual leaders of our
time. A number of years ago Mother Theresa was to open a mission in New York
City. A building was chosen and the diocese had it renovated. They had it
spruced up with a fresh coat of paint. They put in new carpeting. They put
in a large hot water heaters for the nuns. On the day the bishop drove up to
visit Mother Theresa and the newly arrived nuns, he was greeted by a pile of
trash on the curb. They had torn out the new carpet and the hot water
heaters. Mother Theresa thanked the bishop but she never wavered in her
conviction. If they are to serve the poor in the richest city in the richest
country in the world then they must live simply. They prepared for their
work by simplifying their lives. Their spiritual grounding depends upon
their simplicity of life.
The advent message is prepare. But it is not helpful if I just tell you to
prepare. It is hard to know what proper preparation looks like until I see
the lives of John the Baptist and Mother Teresa. They prepared themselves
with simplicity. Any place and time that you and I simplify our lives, we
open up room for God to move. We open up room for God to speak to us.