Sunday, March 20, 2022

Were They Worse - Luke 13

Were they worse?

Tony E Dillon Hansen


Sermon based upon Luke 13: 1-9, Psalm 63, 1 Corinthians 10, and Psalm 109


Opening Prayer


This week’s lesson offers a question to Jesus about calamity. Do people who suffer destruction, war, or poverty somehow deserve this because of sin their lives?


When people ask this there maybe some general concern but it is playing a privileged fool. From the position of not impacted, I get to decide why someone had to go through this experience. Isn’t that just a little vain if you think about it? One can sense that there is judgment, and maybe internally, we are looking for vindication of our own brokenness and inadequacies as somehow not as bad. 


Why is it easy for some to point fingers at places suffering from destruction and say they deserved it? Would we say that about people who had tornados just a couple weeks ago or a derecho over half of Iowa? I think folks might be raked over the coals if we, here in this place, did that. I think we ought to do that as well.


Does distance or ethnicity somehow change that concern, that judgment potential?  Why even point fingers? That is merely avoiding compassion but why?. That is not making room for God to help us see our potential, especially in the face calamity.


Jesus turns the “answer” on its head and gives us this image of a man and gardener talking about a fig tree. What is happening here? What should we do with a plant that is not producing?  What are we to do with those that have not been contributing? What about our lives when we have not been contributing or have not been using the gifts we have?


God, the gardener, says to dig again and see what happens.People on the other hand want to say that is throwing good money after bad.


When will they learn, when will they change their ways? Well, you, (who sit so well on the porch), are you sure that fig tree isn’t you? If you think calamity is for someone else, tell that to the person who prays and goes to church regularly why a big tree is new kitchen decoration, why someone went to the ER to walk out without a spouse, or why dictators decided to bomb neighborhoods. Witness what is in our own lives and realize this is mutual experience. Remember, your humanity is not just self-preservation but to comfort and help those around us. 


This is challenge for us in our lives to look at what we produce (or don’t) or how we share God’s love in our world. How are we examples of God in our lives because our day is just around the corner.


This fellow was ready to call it done but God, the gardener, comes in to rescue. God is willing to give us another chance even when others think the opportunity or the effort is lost like throwing good money after bad. 


This reminds us that on our own journeys that God is there and does not leave us. When we are ready to give up, God is ready to give us chances. God is going to work the soil and tend it for us. God is going to work the Spirit for us, will we respond - will we bear fruit - God’s fruit?


When danger happens, when catastrophe happens, we can question the where and why’s, but we as Christians, are called to help, to share our abundance with those in need and to witness God - not just in our lives but those in our neighbors -> no matter how far away  -e.g. down the street, Polk County, Ukraine, Ethiopia or Afghanistan, or if they have the same beliefs (politically, religion, or nationality) or what they look like.


Maybe the question really isn’t whether we feel empathy or empty, because we will feel empathy (unless you are just cold and careless). Maybe the question is what do we do in our lives to bear the fruit and to be that fruit of God’s kingdom here. 


Beloved, let God work your soul and refresh you. Even when tragedy strikes, through God, you can find your purpose and bear God’s fruit in our world. Then, when the man and the gardener come the next year to question you, the fig tree and your reasons, you don’t have to wonder what they will do. 


Thanks Be to God.

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