Theme: Repentance and Fruitfulness
Call to Worship:
“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
Or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
But their delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by steams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do they prosper.”
Message: “Of Trees and People”
Trees and people both have a mission – to bear fruit. A barren fig tree is a problem because it is using up precious resources while not bearing fruit. Patience is necessary, but eventually has its limits. In the parable we see both the judgement and the grace and love of God clearly portrayed: “Cut it down,” and “Leave it alone.”
The parable of the barren fig tree has what we might call an open-ended conclusion. By this we mean that Luke does not tell us what the outcome was. We might wonder whether they tree that was given another chance did bear fruit the next year, or whether it continues to be barren and was therefore cut down and burned. The result is not disclosed. Each of us is writing our own conclusion to the parable today. Actually we are the ones who will determine the future of the tree of our faith. “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” (Ps. 1:3) “…every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10)
George Bernard Shaw put it this way: “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community. And so long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die for the harder I work the more I live.”
“We are living in a world where the tendency is to try to extract more and more reward for less and less work; and at its basis this is not an economic problem at all, but a moral and religious one. Nearly all the problems of the world’s work would be solved if men and women everywhere attempted the Christian duty of putting more into life than they take out.” William Barclay
There are trees that are gnarled and twisted and there are trees that flourish. What is seen is completely dependent on what is not seen. So, a life that goes deep as well as broad, with prayer and study and reflection may be healthier than one that does not. “As you have received Christ, so live in him, rooted and built up in him.” (Colossians 2:6,7)
It has been one of the coldest winters in recent history in the Southwest and the frequent frosts have left their mark: shriveled up bushes, shrubs and trees everywhere. Now it is beginning to warm up and the sun on its God-intended rising arc will empower seemingly dead plants to be “born again.” People may be tempted to pull out their plants and obtain new ones, but WAIT! Just because a plant has dead leaves as well as many branches in abundance does not mean that the roots have been unalterably affected. It’s time to loosen up the soil around those dead-looking plants and begin watering those roots with fertilizer. With the frosts safely behind us now (at least in Southern Arizona) we can move ahead with removing the dead foliage, for the sun’s warm rays will soon coax the buried energy at the base of the plants to spring forth in displays of beauty and color. (Bruce Laverman)
“Ancient Words,” CCLI #654479 by Lynn Deshazo, Michael W. Smith (?), “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “This is My Father’s World,” “Higher Ground,” “Blessed Assurance”
Prayer of Petition: Realizing our weakness and vulnerability, we pray for ourselves as we face the many challenges and difficulties of life.
We pray for the strength to face temptation with strength and resolve. We pray for the fortitude we need to maintain our standards even when it seems easy and advantageous to do otherwise. We pray that as we make decisions day by day we will never compromise the ethical standards that we know to be true and just.
We pray for the strength to triumph over the difficulties and challenges that we may be facing right now. It may be a challenge of poor health; it may be a problem of debt and finances; it may be a challenge at work or school; it may be an ongoing personal tension with someone who is close to us. It may be a problem of addiction to a substance or an addiction to a behavior. You know us better than we know ourselves, and we plead for help as we seek to overcome.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord guide and direct you.
May the Lord encourage and inspire you,
And may the Lord give you peace.*