March 18, 2001

Luke 13:1-9

About that time [when Jesus was indicating he had come to start a fire on this earth and talking about our being able to see what season of the year we are in but not that we are in God's season] some people came up and told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. Jesus responded, "Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die."

Then he told them a story: "A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren't any. He said to his gardener, "What's going on here? For three years now I've come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?

"The gardener said, 'let's give it another year. I'll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn't then chop it down.'"

<The Message >


1. John Wesley comments: "The Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices -- Some of the followers of Judas Gaulonites. They absolutely refused to own the Roman authority. Pilate surrounded and slew them, while they were worshipping in the temple, at a public feast."

The Jerusalemites were simply at the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time.

Whether from a decision regarding which authority you will follow or a situation beyond your control, there is a decision asked of each of us which is background to the occasion of our death -- to pay attention to the God-season and to give evidence of having been fertilized by the gift of faith so as to bring forth "good" fruit in ordinary season and out.

This might be highlighted by including the last verse of Chapter 13 in the reading: "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of GOD."

2. In regard to the tree, John comments: "Either we may understand God the Father by him that had the vineyard, and Christ by him that kept it: or Christ himself is he that hath it, and his ministers they that keep it."

This last raises the interesting question of "ministers." Are we here talking the general ministry of the laity of the church or the representational ministry of the clergy? If we are not in some way talking about both, what is lost?

3. Wouldn't it be interesting to begin claiming that we are Fertilizers for GOD or Manure-Spreaders for Christ. How would this image change the community of the church?

We are usually much more comfortable claiming that we are the Tree-Harvesters who have a logging permit to whack down the "old-growth" trees. Just how we are then different from Pilate's crew whacking down worshipers is tricky business.

If you mind crude language, stop here and come back to visit next week. ///

Can't you just hear folks now as they exclaim, "Hurrah, for Christ's Shit Servants! They are making a wonderful difference it our lives. We are fruiting like never before!"

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