Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 13:1-9, Third Sunday in Lent, March 20, 2022

The Gospel of Luke 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 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? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

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. 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?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”

Let us Pray: Living God, whose son Jesus conquered death and lives forever, giving us cause for hope we hold before you those places and situations in our world which seem lifeless and hopeless. We bring before you in prayer those who farm against the odds. We pray for those whose crops, livelihoods and futures are in jeopardy through drought or flood. We pray for those who go without or have to pay inflated prices which they can ill afford in order to feed their families. In your name we pray.  Amen

If God is so all-loving and all-powerful, then why does he let bad things happen to good people? It’s a very good question, and you ‘are absolutely right to ask it. Being a Christian does not mean shying away from the difficult questions. We are allowed to question the things we don’t understand.  It’s a question that every generation has asked and that no-one has a complete answer for. Here it is being asked in Jesus’ day. Some Galileans had been killed while presenting sacrifices at the temple. A huge tower had collapsed, killing eighteen people. Why? How could God let these things happen? Today as we watch the terror in Ukraine, we ask, why, why is God letting this happen? Innocent people are dying, and we don’t fully understand. How many of us want to help but don’t know what to do? How many of us have felt powerless to make a difference? How many of us have felt guilty when we complain about our life or problems and then look at what the people of Ukraine are going through? We must keep focused as Jesus did and continue with our work.  Even though bad things happen. Some really, really horrible things happen and it’s not our fault. Sometimes it’s no-one’s fault. But that’s how life is. No-one ever promised it was going to be fair. Bad things happening does not mean that God does not exist, and it does not mean that God is not loving and powerful and good. It also doesn’t mean He has abandoned us.

Jesus then tells them another parable.  The parable of the fig tree and gardener, the story of salvation. The gardener is an extremely patient man!  The gardener wants to give this tree at least one more chance.  He is unwilling to “cut it down.”  This gardener wanted to let nature take its course. He was willing to wait before he intervened.  This gardener was determined to try some other tactics before uprooting the plant. This Gospel gives a wonderful image of God.  God is the gardener – a hopeful and patient gardener.  God will not toss us aside immediately if we are not bearing fruit.  Our gardener, God, will fertilize us, nurture us, and pull the weeds that are growing within and around us.  However, we must allow God to be our gardener.  The question for us is: will we bring our weeds to God and ask him to help us uproot the weeds from our hearts? This Gospel is a message of hope, and of life. It takes effort to walk the path of forgiveness and salvation, but Christ the Gardener is with us, cultivating us for fruitfulness and life with God. Do not fall into despair with misfortune or engage in irrational self-praise with success, but keep your eyes fixed on that path and on Christ Himself. The only judgment that matters comes at the end of that journey.

Let us Pray: Merciful God, Free your Church from the sins of this world and protect us from evil we see and the evil we prefer to ignore. We need your guidance, Lord for we cannot do this alone. Only with your help can we be saved. Thank you for your desire to save us and love us. This we pray in your name. Amen

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