August 19, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 13:6-9.
And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. [So] cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'”
There is still time for repentance, for turning to God, for transforming my life. However, there is a limit to God’s patience if His love for me is not producing fruit in me to nourish others in turn. As Barclay writes, “The parable teaches that uselessness invited disaster….The most searching question we can be asked is, ‘Of what use were you in this world?’ Further, the parable teaches that nothing which only takes out can survive. The fig-tree was drawing strength and sustenance from the soil; and in return was producing nothing. That was precisely its sin.”
Rohr writes in The Good News According to Luke, “For Jesus, parables are just punch-line answers to the question: ‘What is the kingdom of God like?’ So, Jesus is telling me with this parable.
God created me to be His instrument in establishing His kingdom. I have become keenly aware of that responsibility over the last two years in reflecting on the gospels. God has designed me to be both a taker — receiver — and a giver. I received nourishment from the moment of my conception and I have received nourishing care and love all through my adult life just as God has intended. He has given me His love largely through others, those who have allowed Him to use them as His instruments — His heart and hands and voice and ears.
He expects — even demands — a payoff, though. Maybe not immediately, but His patience is not endless and His judgment will be severe. I was created to bear fruit that sustains others. What I have, what He endowed me with — intelligence, creativity, abilities of all kind — are intended to be used for the benefit of others, to make this world a better place, to make this world into His kingdom. Jesus is telling me what my part in the kingdom of God is to be, to be fruit for others.
Henri Nouwen in Life of the Beloved puts it this way, “From the moment we claim the truth of being the Beloved, we are faced with the call to become who we are. Becoming the Beloved is the great spiritual journey we have to make….If it is true that we not only are the Beloved, but also have to become the Beloved; if it is true that we not only are children of God, but also have to become children of God; if it is true that we not only are brothers and sisters, but also have to become brothers and sisters…if all that is true, how then can we get a grip on this process of becoming? If the spiritual life is not simply a way of being, but also a way of becoming, what then is the nature of this becoming?”
With this parable Jesus is telling me to be intentional about becoming fruit, not only to take nourishment from others. I can’t just be God’s beloved; I have to be a brother to others. I have to give His love, HIs nourishment, to others so that they can know that they are beloved as well. That is my spiritual path to the kingdom.