Monday, March 8, 2010

“The Loving Thing to Do!” (Luke 13:8).

S-1174 03/07/10 3SIL/3C (O) #429; (S) #149; (S) #324; (C) #457

Texts: Ezekiel 33:7-20; 1 Corinthians 10”1-13; Luke 13:1-9

Theme: “The Loving Thing to Do!” (Luke 13:8).

Question: “Do you like it when you are disciplined?”

SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our 3rd Sunday in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: “And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. (Luke 13:8).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved the police car pulled up next to a mother who was spanking her son in the parking lot of a shopping mall. He rolled the window down and looked at her and said: “Mam, it is not a good idea to spank your child. It will destroy his ego and he will have psychological problems” She looked at him as only a mother with a fury can and said: “Sir, I am doing this so that 20 years from now you don’t put handcuffs on him for shoplifting!” That spanking was the loving thing to do. The mother loved her son so much that she wanted to spare him a life of pain, hardships and spending time in jail.

We are not any different from the young man in our story. At times we live our lives without consequences. Many times we think we are gods and have rights to live the way we think we could and should. However, we don’t have a right to live our lives apart from Christ’s or His Word. His Word is our Lamp to our feet and the light to our path. His Word is the blueprint for our path. Any times we don’t do so we are walking in darkness.

Even though we know these things, we still struggle living the life of the Christian man and woman. And when we don’t and God disciplines us, we don’t like it. Being disciplined is never fun. None of us in this place likes to be disciplined. I don’t care what age you are. This is especially true if we are disciplined by the authority of God’s Word. For the Word of God at times is very harsh to sinful ears.

This is what we have in our text today—harsh words. But these are not harsh words to harm us or hurt us but to bring about a change for the better. What we have in the text today are God’s gracious words because it is the loving thing to do. And what is it that God desires from us? REPENT, TURN AWAY FROM WHAT YOU ARE DOING BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. THE ROAD YOU ARE ON IS A DEAD END STREET. PAUSE

My beloved in the Lord, Luke’s Gospel account for today is one that is intended to jar us from our deep sleep. In it, Jesus engages His hearers then and hearers today with a parable about a fig tree not being a fig tree. What do Fig trees do? They produce figs! However, if a fig tree is no longer producing figs, or has no hope of producing figs, it ought to be stacked neatly in bundles by the fireplace! It shouldn’t use the soil’s precious resources! Now this seems logical and right - but harsh, right!... NO! NO! AND NO!

Let me ask you: “Is it wrong to put the skull and cross-bones sign on cleaning supplies or railroad cars carrying hazardous materials? (Wait for their answers) NO! In fact we would call that at the least, “irresponsible,” and as Christians we would call that “unloving!” Jesus is therefore being both responsible and loving. In mercy and grace He reaches out to us and shouts in love: “My children you’re heading down a dead-end that will kill you - return to Me, listen to My voice, follow it, follow Me and LIVE. For in Me there is Life and Salvation! In Me there is hope and heaven!”

The words of our text are these: “And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. In these words we see the mercy and compassion of the Great Gardener Jesus doing what He can to spare our lives before it is too late. This is an act of love that demonstrates that the Love that Christ has for us, even before we knew His name, He knew our very breath. There can be no greater Love than this. This parable is a story rooted in love that is done for the right purpose.

What you observe today through the reading of Luke is the joy of the Son of God, the Only-Begotten Son of the Father doing the loving thing for us. Jesus gets to appeal to His Father on our behalf—on yours and mine. Like a tree that is supposed to bear figs, but doesn’t, how often does your life, does mine, bear branches that are leafy but without their due meat? We are so often fig-less fig trees. Today we see Jesus on our behalf as the fig-dresser, bearing the spade and the manure in His own flesh to bear all that we would bear fruit, or as He said, in the Gospel of John 15:5, 7-8, 5 I Am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing... 7 If {as you certainly will} you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. Know, learn and hear that our loving Father is glorified when we bear much fruit.

How then, do we bear fruit? How does God take this old dead fig tree and causes it to produce fruit? It is done by the mercy of God as He unites us to His Son Our Savior. This Master Gardner uses the tools before Him to work the changes that are necessary—shovel and manure. The shovel to remove the unwanted and the undesirable, and the manure to fertilize it. When we feel the sharp point of the shovel and smell the odor of the manure we are not above our master (Matthew 10:24). As our master endured the cross, we His followers endure the hardships that come our way. Even though they come we can be confident that He is faithfully working everything in our lives for His glory.

Again, no one likes to be disciplined. No one likes to smell the odor of the manure. But this is the loving thing to do by the Faithful Gardener Jesus Christ. He works in us repentance. This repentance is brought about by Him digging the dead branches in our hearts, and upon the rest sprinkling the manure to bring forth abundant fruit.

At times we brag about our fruit producing thinking they should bring us closer to God. That He should love us more. But how foolish we are! All of our man-made fruits are nothing but manure, good to be piled high, stink our surroundings and burned. Our man-made fruit exposes our sinfulness before a holy God. And when our sins are exposed, we try to cover ourselves with fig leaves as Adam and Eve did. We hide and run from God. But He never gives up on us. He comes to bring about the change to bring forth the greatest fruit needed.

The real fruit that we are called to bear abundantly is the fruit of repentance. When we by the leading of God’s Holy Sprit confess our sins and fall upon the mercy of the Great Gardener, Jesus Christ, then we can grow. A fig-less tree can’t make itself produce fruit without the outside forces of the gardener. There is nothing in the parable that would give ANY indication that the tree had any hope of making fruit. But we see the Lord act. He lovingly goes the extra mile for us. When the Father could have quit on us and been vindicated in doing so, Jesus takes on the cross for our sake!

This then is what gives us hope. It is NOT about our efforts. It is all about Jesus. His fertilization. His labor. His love. His involvement in our lives. It all comes through for us. This is something that makes no sense to our feeble minds. But it is not up for us to understand. It is for us to fear, love and trust. This is our hope. This is our joy! PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, God has made us beautiful fig trees in our Baptism. In Baptism He takes away our man-made fig-leaves that covers our nakedness and shame and dresses us with His white robes of righteousness. But He doesn’t stop there. He nurtures us to a growing faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. He indents us to bear the fruit of Christ in our lives by His grace. Yet often, we like Jesus’ contemporaries, fail to produce fruit. We may conduct ourselves poorly at sporting or social events, use foul language and unkind words, or fail to care for others, to attend church regularly, and to share our faith in Christ. Like the people to whom Jesus spoke, we need to repent.

In the parable the owner gives the fig tree another chance, a year of grace to bear fruit. The Gardener plans special activities—special nourishing care to give the tree every chance. God’s grace and mercy pours forth to us as well. We have no need to despair. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, God gives us another chance. He provides maximum nourishment through the holy fertilization of the Means of Grace. As we come humbly to Him, He forgives and restores us. His love alone can produce fruit in us. What the church needs most is fig trees receiving nourishment and, by God’s grace, continuing to bear fruit in word and deed. Fruit-bearing is required and supplied through Jesus Christ! This is what you are—a fig-tree producing fruit for the glory of God. Amen.

Now the peace…

SDG

1 comment:

PDeverit said...

People used to think it was necessary to "spank" adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is "spanked", but only if over the age of 18.

For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be sexually abusive, but I won't list them all here. One can use the resources I've posted if they want to learn more.

Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled "spanking","swatting","switching","smacking", "paddling",or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

I think the reason why television shows like "Supernanny" and "Dr. Phil" are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

Plain Talk About Spanking
by Jordan Riak,

The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
by Tom Johnson,

NO VITAL ORGANS THERE, So They Say
by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at www.nospank.net.

Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea:

American Academy of Pediatrics,
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
American Psychological Association,
Center For Effective Discipline,
Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,
Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.