Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lent 3: Sustaining Hope

Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree 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 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." Luke 13:6-9

Borrowing Brian Stoffregen's notes from on this week's text he quotes a helpful piece by Jeremias in The Parables of Jesus: "The first three years of a fig-tree's growth were allowed to elapse before it's fruit became clean (Lev. 19:23) , hence six years had already passed since it was planted. It is thus hopelessly barren. ... A fig-tree absorbs a specially large amount of nourishment and hence deprives the surrounding vines of their needed sustenance. ... manuring a vineyard is not mentioned in any passage of the OT; moreover, as a matter of duty, the undemanding fig-tree does not need such care. Hence the gardener proposes to do something unusual, to take the last possible measures." (pp. 170-171).

I realize that some wondering around sustainability creates, perhaps, more of an imposed move on the text rather than what the text may be speaking from within. However, parables are great for expanding the imagination and never really provide just one "correct and true" answer. I'm initially struck by Jeremias' quote given the possible age of the tree before it is considered legitimately ready to cut down. I understand that one of the points strongly refers to limited time to repent, turn things around, however, there is still time. I would especially like to wonder about the time prior to the warning of only one more year. Would we be willing to allow emerging communities six years, taking up space and resources, before we determined whether they should be elimated or not?

Jesus is speaking to an agrarian culture and uses such metaphors to speak of God's kingdom. I also like to think that the organic parables helps to illustrate God's slow maturation process, through natural means; rather than through industrialized notions of factories that mass produce, and if they aren't produced fast enough, with enough effeciency, should be uprooted. In the end, and tonight where I find myself in a zombie-like state, I thank God and find great hope that God allows more time for fruit than we would ever deem appropriate or welcome.

Lord Jesus, give to us the wisdom of what needs to turn around in us, the courage to receive manure as necessary for growth to produce fruits beyond ourselves for the sake of the world. amen.

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