Posted on Sun, Mar 6, 2016
February 28, 2016
Third Sunday in Lent
Gospel Text: Luke 13:1-9
Repent or Perish
1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
6 Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” 8 He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
Open with the song, “Some Special Occasion” by Amy Carol Webb.
It doesn’t matter how it happens, it could be a terrifying and reprehensible crime where innocent people are murdered and then on top of the killing there is more humiliation heaped upon the victims as is pictured in the beginning of today’s text. Pilate wasn’t one to appreciate any kind of religious practice or piety, even when they are just Galilean pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for a religious pilgrimage.
It doesn't make it any better even it is an accident, like a tower falling and several workers or bystanders were in the wrong place at the wrong time and some are killed, maimed or injured.
And sometimes it isn’t the drama of the tragedy itself, as it is the surprise that it happened at all.
One minute we are all together as family, or extended Ohana, and then within a minute or even a few days, someone is gone… it could be a virus, a bacteria, car accident, suicide, cancer, or any other cause, it doesn’t matter.
When the family members come together and when they first walk into the room there is fear in their faces, and then the uncontrollable emotional outpouring. I’ve seen it so many times… whether I knew the family or not, the expressions at the scenes are almost always the same.
Then come the excuses, “If only I would have known, I would have come sooner.” If only I would have known, I would have “said my goodbyes.” If only I would have known, I would have “apologized.” If only I would have known, I would have “forgiven him or her.” If only I would have known, I would have said, “I love you!”
But there just wasn't enough time… I was busy with work, the kids, my hectic schedule… the list goes on and on. And, there was no way “to have known…” Life happens, without any limits based on OUR schedules. Culturally we value “being in control,” from now on you have permission to dismiss this myth, this lie. We are not in control, we only have repentance and faith.
During the time of Lent we are called to take quiet time to contemplate why it was necessary for Jesus to go to the cross for the sake of my forgiveness and salvation. He commands us, over and over again to “repent,” which simply means, “Turn around 180 degrees.” It means to “return to the one who loved you so much that He would even sacrifice the very life of his own son for you.” It means, “return to your Creator:” It means to return to your Creator and Redeemer’s love and mercy, so that you can have the power of that same love and mercy SO THAT YOU CAN FORGIVE EACH OTHER, or HUMBLY RECEIVE THAT FORGIVENESS WHEN IT IS OFFERED.
And here is the gift that people often don't notice, we are called to repent not to make us feel guilty and wormlike, but through repentance, we proclaim we believe in a gracious, loving AND FAITHFUL God!! We can only repent because we have a Gracious and Faithful God. If God wasn't faithful in forgiving our trespasses, there would be no purpose to being called to repent.
The examples he gives us are frightening and yet, are examples we hear about every day in the news. There is no guarantee as to how each day will go, and this pushes to realize that we really only have the now, to love and appreciate each other, to see the beauty around us, consider each breath as a gift, to hug, learn, explore, sing, dance, create, worship and even take a good nap…
And do not fear God’s wrath, God gives us strength and the words we may need. The vineyard owner demanded fruit from his trees right now, but when he went to the vineyard and saw his fruitless tree he only found disappointment and ordered the gardener to chop it down. The gardener pleaded for a little more time and work, and the vineyard owner granted the gardener a little more time and the resources the poor tree may need to bloom and grow… the humble gardener was given more time with his little tree… I am sure that if the vineyard owner (God) found grace to give the gardener for this one little tree, I am sure the vineyard owner would find even more grace in His or Her heart.
But do not test God in these matters. Through the Cross of Christ, we have already been blessed to be a blessing. Instead, joyfully yet humbly, use the gifts you were given so that you can say, “I love you” to that special person or persons. Don’t waste your time when you have the chance to see the goodness of God in the beauty that surrounds us.
And let repentance be considered a gift! It is a gift given to us by a faithful God that is eager to free you up from sin and doubt. Repent and be set free through the Gospel, the Cross of Christ.
As soon as you wake up in the morning, it is God who gently looks at your face and quietly says, “Wake up my beloved, I have made you just the way I wanted you to be… Return to Me and be Free.” Amen.
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