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.