The lectionary includes:
– Isaiah 55:1-9
– Psalm 63:1-8
– 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
– Luke 13:1-9
This is one of those weeks where the texts assigned are pretty easy to find the connections that the editors of the lectionary intended. Some weeks are not so obvious. The contemplative nature of Lent also offers some focus.
In the third week of Lent, we are called again, as we see in most weeks, to patience and waiting. This is not aways easy for modern Americans as often we find instant gratification taking far too long. With that we are also challenged to repentance; to turn away from many evils, most of which orient around selfishness.
Isaiah calls out to all who are thirsty to come to the waters… Give ear to me, says our God. A few verses later Isaiah extends the invitation to those outside of Israel. In vs. 7 we hear the promise of mercy to those who repent (turn around).
Psalm 63 is a song of praise to God that speaks to where God is visible to the writer and places where he recalls the gifts and mercy of God. Yet another observation of God’s activity in our lives.
Luke in chapter 13 deals with repentance. Jesus points up events common to his hearers of that day and defuses the setting of one over another; of those who attempt to set up parameters or degrees of sin. Then he calls us back to repentance in vs. 6 with the parable of the owner of a vineyard who had not received ample yield from a particular fig tree. I have often wondered why such a tree would have been in the middle of a vineyard. On the surface, this seems ridiculous having had a thousand grape plants in our field west of Kuna many years ago. The answer, I think, is found in Jesus linking a non-repentant Israel to the baren fig tree.
The owner calls for the gardener to cut it down. To which the gardener lists those things that he knows will probably turn the production of the tree around. Is he calling the owner to patience and repentance? Is he calling for the owner to turn away from his thinking and grant mercy? The allegory of placing faces on the players here is not too difficult.
What we are not told is the outcome for the tree. We are not even told in the parable if the owner yielded on his desire to cut the tree down. On these two things Luke remains silent.
We can answer this today based on our own experience with our God of the eternal covenant. God comes to us with unconditional love which we can readily and often see. Translation, the tree survives!
In the text from 1 Corinthians 10: 6-10, Paul offers a list of those things that we should not fall prey to; including among other things, idolatry. Then he offers a way out that I would suggest is one of the more misquoted things in the entire Bible. Vs. 13b, “And God is faithful and will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” (New International Version)
Let’s look for a moment at what this does not say. Perhaps you have been told by someone that God will not put on you more than you can endure. That God will not tempt you beyond what you can handle. Does God really do that? My vision of God is not one of a tempter.
What this does say that at some point God will intervene. God will set the boundaries of temptation. This is similar to the words of the more modern iteration of the Lord’s Prayer. Save us from the time of trial. I have long struggled with the phrase, lead us not into temptation. I don’t see a loving God doing that. I guess this then is the window into your understanding of God. If we hear the message of God through Jesus, of love and empathy, why do we run home to definitions of God as one of vengeance? That makes God out to be the bad guy.
My view is that of an eternal loving God.
To connect the texts for this third week of Lent: we are called to repentance, we are called to patience as we choose to see our God as the source of unconditional love. We are called in the third week of lent to turn away from all selfishness and flee to the open and loving arms of God.
Loving and gracious God, help us to turn away from those things that separate us from you and others. Guide our thinking to be like yours and seek to offer mercy to those we might encounter on any given day. Amen.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Nice piece of writing, Bob. You sound like a preacher attempting to wrestle with the texts faithfully.
Bob, that’s a good question. Why would a fig tree be in the middle of a vineyard? Fig trees can be huge! In the days before tractors, there might have been more tolerance for the seeming mismatch of plantings. I have no clue. But it’s an interesting question to ponder.