Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
28 Feb. 2016, Lent 3 Year C: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
Why does the burning bush Moses encounters not get consumed by the fire?
Why does the fig tree in our Gospel not produce?
"Fig tree” that you are, go figure how far God's extensive love reaches to nourish you so that you produce good fruit.
What patience do we see God exercise in our lives? What patience & hope do we hear Jesus express in our Gospel when he talks about the fig tree that is about to get the ax? What cruelty we hear of Pilate, who later gives the go-ahead to kill Jesus. What harshness we hear in people's response about 18 accident victims deserving to have that tower fall on them.
How often do we share this mindset that
a problem is a person's fault?
Jesus tells us the fig tree story so that we hear God's love in a new, deeper way. God gives the growth. God gives us grace to be more than we are. God sees us – God sees you – as worth the effort that Jesus gives dying on the cross so that we can know God's love fully – up close & personal.
The fig tree can remind us to prune away our unfruitful habits, nourish new habits so that we grow deeper in God's love. As we grow, God's love blossoms in our lives & nourishes us & others.
God loves you.
All are welcome.
Who is this God with such abundance of welcoming love?
In Exodus God tells us: “I AM Who I AM...the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Think what this means: God is the God of people who are deceivers, tricksters, passive sinners:
- God claims relationship with Abraham: an obedient old man who lied to a king to save his own life, saying his wife was his sister & the king took her as a wife.
- God claims relationship with Isaac, who is passive as his dad Abraham prepares to sacrifice him, passive at age 40 when a wife is chosen for him1, & is easily tricked into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of his favorite son, Esau, the first-borne of his twin sons.
- God claims relationship with Jacob the trickster & deceiver, who works with his mom to deceive his dad, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that was to be Esau's.
God loves all sorts of people.
How can you doubt God's love for you?
How can you doubt God's love for that
most annoying person in your life?
What will you do about an unproductive fig tree? Knowing God loves you, how would you respond seeing a burning bush that isn't burning up?
Notice the foreshadowing of the Exodus travels in the wilderness in our 1st lesson: Moses leads his flock beyond the wilderness. They come to the mountain of God. Moses encounters God & responds to God's call – however hesitantly. Remember how inconsistently the people of Israel are in their response to God in the wilderness & beyond.
How consistent are we in our responses to God? How patient are we with people in our lives who have problems, people who drag their feet, who drop the ball, who make a mess of our hard work?
We will not be as patient as God
Perhaps we can be as patient as Thomas Edison
when he was developing the light bulb.
As my favorite children's sermon website says of today's scriptures2: It took Edison & his team 24 hours to create one light bulb. When they finished, Edison gave it to a boy to carry upstairs. Carefully step by step, striving not to drop “this priceless piece of work,” the boy reaches the top & drops it. The team starts over: 24 hours later they have another light bulb. The exhausted Edison gives the bulb to the same boy: He gives the boy a new opportunity to succeed.
If a human inventor can do this, certainly we can do this in our lives. Knowing that God gives us new opportunities to succeed, we can understand something of God's extensive love that reaches out to nourish us – to nourish you – so that you – we – produce good fruit.
One preacher says the “extravagant gardener” Jesus tells us of in today's Gospel3 “...remind[s] us of another gardener...in the beginning, who just couldn’t help it when he picked up some dirt...God just had to form it into a human & breathe life into it. God just had to make it into someone to love, someone who would be free to choose to love in return. Maybe we can hear this gardener at work in our own lives, saying, 'Wait. Give me another year. I’ll do all that I can to nurture this tree.'”4
God has all eternity in which to act.
We do not.
“Life is short.
And we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us.
So be quick to love & make haste to be kind.”5
Amiel, Henri Frederic. http://www.ststephensorinda.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Life-is-short.pdf Accessed: 27 Feb. 2016.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
“The God of the Second Chance ”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/ Accessed: 26 Feb. 2016.
Richter, the Rev. Dr. Amy. “What Did They Do to Deserve That?, Lent 3 (C) – 2016”. Accessed: 26 Feb. 2018. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/02/05/what-did-they-do-to-deserve-that-lent-3-c-2016/
Tenney, Merrill. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965.
1 Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. P. 425.
3 Richter, the Rev. Dr. Amy. “What Did They Do to Deserve That?, Lent 3 (C) – 2016”. Accessed: 26 Feb. 2018. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/02/05/what-did-they-do-to-deserve-that-lent-3-c-2016/
4 Ibid. Richter.
5 Attributed to philosopher and writer Henri Frederic Amiel, 1821-1887. http://www.ststephensorinda.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Life-is-short.pdf Accessed: 27 Feb. 2016.