1st Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:1-9 & Psalm 63
The prophet Isaiah calls the Israelites to return to an awareness of God; “to listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.”
Though each of us probably has a different idea of who and what God may be, I think we can all acknowledge that the prophets of Israel spoke for a higher knowing, a higher truth, a clearer insight into the way for the nation to move forward.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah was calling the people to life abundant, where following the good meant generous pardon for past sins, and where God’s mercy would be evident to all. All the good things that nourish human life are available and freely given to those who align themselves with the prophets call to listen for God’s will for humanity.
Hymn #356 VU “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”
2nd Scripture Reading: Luke 13: 1-9
I find this reading a bit ominous, don’t you? The heading in my bible is “Repent or perish”.
Jesus uses the parable of the barren fig tree to get his warning message across. Yes, God is merciful. Yes, there is abundant pardon available to all, as we saw in the reading from Isaiah. But there is more to the story….
If we say, as many theologians do, that God is the owner of the vineyard, and the gardener is our teacher or mentor, and we humans are the fig tree, then what is expected of us as God’s children? Merciful and benevolent as we believe God to be, there is still an expectation of us to bear fruit – to grow into something of value – something that doesn’t waste the opportunity so graciously given to us as human beings.
In this case, Jesus is our teacher, our mentor, the One who came to show us the Way – God’s way of Love. He is willing, according to the story, to do all that he can to help us (the fig tree) become the people we are meant to be: a light to the world. If we do not turn toward God, if we do not become fruitful, if we do not learn the error of our previous ways and correct our path, then we are no longer able to hear the wisdom of Jesus, and we will not grow and flourish as we are meant to do.
Grow and flourish. What do we need to do to become a fig tree that bears abundant fruit? We need to stay tuned to higher guidance: to listen as the Benedictine nuns at the Bethlehem Retreat Centre chant at morning meditation, “Listen, listen, listen. Listen, listen, listen. Listen with the ear of your heart. Listen to the heartbeat of the earth.” And we need to be obedient to the call that we hear when we listen – to act on the guidance we receive. To ask ourselves daily: “What am I called to do today in the service of God’s kingdom here on earth?”
Hymn #703 VU “In the bulb there is a flower”