The Thursday Memo for Preachers
For Sunday March 3, 2013, 3rd Sunday in Lent
Luke 13:1-9 “Trees and Fruit”
by Bill Cotton
Have you noticed? Jesus expects a lot from fig trees. There was the time when he became impatient and cursed the tree that bore no fruit. (Remember he was on the way to do some temple cleansing). Another time he will speak of the ax being put to the roots of the tree. In the Luke parable for this week, he is ready to rid the garden of a tree that apparently is gold bricking--three years and no fruit. In this case the gardner begs for one more year--you know, just add some manure.
Does it seem providential that this text in some form usually surfaces in the spring during the making of cabinet appointments? Is Jesus really talking about trees? Well it would be easy to moralize this text. After all, the bearing of fruit is important to Jesus too.
But something else is happening here. With the announcing of the new Kingdom that is being revealed in Jesus, there is a struggle between the old and the new. Jesus is the sign of newness. He will speak of the problem of patching old garments and the need for new wine skins to replace the old, because the forms of the old world are passing away--- Jesus is the sign for newness. I think this is always the case. T.S. Eliot once wrote that the “Church must always be rebuilding because it is always decaying from within.”.
All of this seems a bit heavy, so lets visit that tree one more time. In East Peru, Madison County, where I hang out, there is a wonderful story of a Quaker farmer who planted sixteen apple trees. One of the trees appeared to be different. So the farmer cut it down. But the tree came back from the roots so the farmer said, “If thou would live then live,” and he let the tree grow. One year it bore fruit-- our farmer said, “This is the most delicious apple I have ever tasted!”
Later he will sell the grafting rights for enough money to pay off his farm, and the world has the Delicious Apple. The original tree died in a 1940 ice storm but again came back from the roots, and last year it again bore fruit. The old tree is no quitter. There is a sermon here somewhere--Go and bear some fruit...
(A special thanks to Bill Steward for sharing his wisdom last month.)