Sermon on Luke 13: 1-9, Lent 3, “Last Chance”

Theme:  Jesus gives humanity a “Last Chance” to be productive and bear fruit.

Every month, most of us receive a utility bill in the mail.  If you miss just one payment, your next bill will look something like this (see image), which includes a warning of disconnection!  This is your Last Chance to pay up or be disconnected!  No kidding!  Its important to pay attention when you are on your last chance!

last-chance fruit-on-the-vine

Jesus told a parable about Last Chances. According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was traveling from Galilee up north to Jerusalem down south. It was an eighty mile journey.

While on that journey to Jerusalem, some unnamed people  came up to Jesus and told them about two nasty disasters which apparently had recently occurred.

Listen carefully. It gets a little complicated.

The first nasty disaster. The notorious Pontius Pilate, who had been ruling Israel for four years and had been a monstrous cruel ruler who put down riots viciously,  this Pontius Pilate had mixed the blood of Galileans that he had executed with the blood of their Jewish sacrifices. This was offensive, disgusting, revolting, sickening, nauseating. This was appalling as it gets, for Pilate to have mixed human blood with the animal blood of sacrifices. Talk about repulsive.

Jesus had this ability to read minds and know what people were thinking. Jesus said to them: “I know what some of you folks are thinking. I know that some of you are thinking that these Galileans were killed and then their blood mixed with the blood of sacrifices because they were worse sinners than others.. Isn’t that right? Aren’t some of you thinking that way? I want it to be clear to you,  that is not true. Just because people suffer a nasty, horrible death, that does not mean that they are bigger sinners than everybody else. That is just NOT true.

Rather, when someone dies so suddenly and abruptly, so tragically and brutally, as these Galileans did at the hands of Pilate, it is time for you to think about your own lives and how you are living them. That terrible tragedy is an occasion for you to come to grips with your own death, with your own unexpected end and abrupt death. How are you with the Lord God? Are you ready to die suddenly like those Galileans did? Are you ready to die? Are you ready to meet God face to face? How are you with  your poor neighbors? How are you with your wife, family and friends?

While there is time, you need to repent, turn your lives around, and come back to the Lord. Otherwise, you will die eternally. There is still time for you to change your ways.

Second disaster. Then Jesus continued. “You heard about the tragic news of eighteen people being killed when a tower fell over near Siloam, just south of Jerusalem. That was awful. Talk about tragic. A disaster. Eighteen people mind you. Men, women, children. How do you explain that?

And those eighteen who died so tragically: were they any worse than the rest of the folks who live in Jerusalem? Is that why the eighteen died? Because they were worse sinners than the rest of the town? No, of course not. They died in a moment, died in a blink, died so unexpectedly. We are to be ready at all times to meet our God face to face. Are you ready to meet the Lord God for all eternity? Are you ready?

There is still time to amend your ways, change your lives and become ready to meet God in a moment.

Jesus then them a parable to explain himself more clearly. Jesus often follows a teaching up with a parable. Jesus said, "A man planted a fig tree in his garden. The man came looking for fruit from that fig tree. For three years; yes, for three years, he came looking for fruit from that fig tree. He finally became frustrated with that fig tree and said to his gardener in exasperation, “I have been coming here for three years and that tree does not produce any figs. Cut the thing down.”

The gardener replied, “No, sir, give it another year to produce figs. One more year. Some more time. Some more space. Let me dig around the roots and put good manure on it. If after a year, it still does not produce figs, then let’s cut it down.”

That’s the gospel text for today.

Where do we do from here? There is so much in this gospel. What does this gospel mean for your life and mine?

You ALL know that if…

You own an apple tree, you expect it to produce apples. Right? Of course.

If you own a pear tree, you expect it to produce pears. Right? Of course.

If you own a cherry tree, you expect it to produce cherries. Right? Of course.

If the tree doesn’t produce fruit, we all know what to do. Right? Let’s get rid of it and find a tree that will produce apples, pears or cherries.

We all know that the unproductive tree is a waste of time, space and energy.

But the gardener reasons, “Boss. Hang on there a moment. Let’s give this tree one more chance. More time. More space. One more year.  New manure. Good water. Let’s give this tree one more chance.”

That is what the parable is about for us today. The Lord God wants to give us another chance, one more chance, another season, another year, some more space to begin living our lives in ways that the Lord God expects.

We have another chance, another moment, another space, another period of grace that begins now…to change…to live the quality of lives that God wants from  us…to produce the life of love that the Lord God expects from us. The Lord God gives us more time to shape up, to live life as God wants us to.

We all know that…

The Lord God created apple trees and expects those apple trees to produce apples.

The Lord God created cherry trees and expects those cherry trees to produce cherries.

The Lord God created pear trees, and expects those pear trees to produce pears.

The Lord God created you and me to be loving people, and expects us to live lives of love for God and our neighbors.

Those are the Lord God’s legitimate expectations of us. The Lord God has legitimate expectations of us: to produce fruits of love, for God and neighbor. It is all so very simple.

But the Lord God created  you and me for another purpose, a primary purpose, to produce fruit, to produce the fruit of love for the Almighty good God of creation who fashioned you in the first place and wants you love and adoration. The Lord God created you primarily to love God and your neighbor in need with all your heart mind and soul.

You still more time, one more day, one day more. Don’t you see? Don’t you get it? The Lord God is giving us another chance to live the way God wants us to.

Rev. Edward Markquart, edited by Ministry Depot