Of Fire and Figs

River On Fire

Of Fire and Figs

Luke 13:1-9 English Standard Version (ESV)

Repent or Perish

13 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

The past several years we have learned the strength of fire. When we pass through Santa Rosa we see the damage from the  fires; my four days in Paradise as a chaplain with fire all around I saw the power and the destruction of fire.
In our Scripture today death is on the mind of people bringing people gossip about the Galileans killed by Pilate’s destroying hand. They want to believe such “justified” devastation will not touch them. The Galileans must have been great sinners to meet that fate. Jesus refuses to agree that those who die by murder or accident   are “more guilty than any one else who lived in Jerusalem.”  We are all judged by our actions, we are all judged by the love we give our neighbors.
Then Jesus tells the story of the orchard owner whose fig tree is barren. For three years the the fig has borne no fruit. The owner tells his Gardner to cut  the barren tree down. But the Gardner sees what the owner can not see–new life. He sees the promise of cultivated ground and fertile soil and a dead tree flowering. In the Paradise area with coming  of the  spring rain death is becoming life.
Jim Woodrum writes: “God will help create in us new and contrite hearts if we will just hand over that which is superfluous and burdening to us, and open our hands to receive the sustenance we will need for the journey.”
Each of us can bring life out of the barrenness of homelessness , our fears of not having enough, our fears of our own destruction, all of those fears that result in our hatred, and bias towards others, our fears of not be able to accomplish anything. There is hope in the barrenness.  We can bring life through our faith in the Crucified One who calls us to new life, to new beginnings. I have learned that in my own life, at the time of each death, there comes resurrection; at the time of each forest fire, there comes the greenness of Spring. Scott Peck commented “When we learn that life is difficult, then we can enjoy life,” so facing our difficulties with new hope, with hope in the resurrection we find life. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164

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