“A Graceful Delay”                                                                               March 3, 2013

Luke 13:1-9                                                                                            Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   Our scripture lesson for today opens with Jesus having a newspaper shoved in his face.

A.    Well, they didn’t have newspapers back in those days but if they had there would have been two stories that would have vied for the lead headline.

1.     One story concerned a construction crew who was putting up a tall tower and they were on the tower when an earthquake hit.

2.     The tower went down so the workers were killed.

3.     The other story concerned some Galileans who were a threat to Rome (maybe they were planning a revolt) and while they were offering sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem some Rome soldiers came into the sanctuary (which they weren’t suppose to do, but they did anyway) and killed the Galileans in the sacred area.

4.     Those concerned about the headlines were in essence thinking, “We live in terrible times. See what’s happening in the world. All this bad stuff and where’s God? Hey, Jesus! Where was this God you talk about when people needed Him? You got an answer?”

B.     There are a number of theological implications in their concern and one was the matter of time which is why the Greek word “kairos” appears in our text.

1.     Basically they were asking “Where is God in time?”

2.     You know what? People are still asking that question.

3.     So we too are interested in Jesus’ answer and the answer he gave was “I tell you, if you don’t repent, you will likewise perish.”

4.     As Bishop Will Willimon has commented that’s not the most pastoral of answers. (Willimon, God Gives Us Time, March 3, 2013)

5.     Imagine you coming to me with the statement “My uncle died this week during his surgery” and instead of saying “Oh, I’m so sorry. You must be grieving” I respond with “I tell you, if you don’t repent, you will likewise perish.”

6.     I doubt you’d then reply “Well, thank you Pastor, that’s just what I was hoping you would say.”

C.     So why is Jesus make such an odd comment?

1.     I mean people in the midst of troubling times want to know why God doesn’t come and come now.

2.     That’s a tough one so to help people understand Jesus told a story.

3.     The story was about a poorly producing fig tree and a frustrated farmer.

4.     In Judea fig trees bear fruit twice every year but this tree had not produced even one fig in three years.

5.     Worthless tree so the farmer gives the order to cut it down.

6.     This is the point where the servant enters the story and the servant intervenes for the tree.

7.     “Master, let it alone,” he says in English but in Greek he says aphetes which means “forgive it.”

8.     And the servant doesn’t stop there – he adds that if the farmer will forgive the tree he’ll continue with the Greek by employing some koprion which those of you who speak Greek know is dung and feces and other stuff you normally don’t talk about in church and that the servant would just pile it on the tree.

D.    Now some of you may have been thinking ahead and have been contemplating “Where am I in this story?” and have recognized that Jesus wanted those he talked to back then and talks to now to realize that you are the tree in this story.

1.     I’m really striking out pastorally this morning but it’s Jesus’ fault.

2.     He came up with this story – not me.

3.     He’s the one offering to cover you up in koprion.

4.     And that’s actually a gracious thing for him to do because that means you still have time.

5.     God is taking his time in this messed up, confused, going in the wrong direction world to give us time to get our act together so we can be fruitful for God’s kingdom, a kingdom where time is without end.

6.     But to get to the time without end situation we are expected to become fruitful in this time.

7.      As Bishop Willimon writes, “Justice here is depicted as accounting for fruitfulness. Mercy is depicted as time. There shall be a time when time is up. (Which is what happens to the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14 which Jesus curses because it had been given time and it still wasn’t fruitful) But here there is, by God’s grace, still time.” (Willimon, God Gives Us Time, March 3, 2013)

E.     Luke doesn’t finish the story for us.

1.     We’re left with the tree and the farmer and the servant which means that it is up to us to write the end of the story.

2.     Actually it’s up to you because I can’t write the ending of your story.

3.     Each of us writes our own ending and because of God’s servant Jesus you’ve got some more time.

4.     The good news is that in your heartache, struggles and difficulties that God will take time for you and even give time to you if you will allow that to happen.

5.     The question is, “Are you able, in the time that God gives you, to take time for God?” (Willimon, God Gives Us Time, March 3, 2013)

6.     So next time you read of bad things in the newspaper remember that you have time now to bear fruit and by God’s grace when fruit is in your story then time never ends.