Sermon Lent 3 March 24, 2019

Isaiah 55:1-9              Psalm 63:1-8 

             1 Corinthians 10:1-13                       Luke 13:1-9

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I hope.  I hope that when we hear of all the disasters going on around the world, the massacre of Muslims in Christchurch, the flood and cyclone victims in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, the collapse of a condemned school building in Nigeria, and the like, that we don’t think there is some form of punishment being meted out on them, that would be an entirely wrong conclusion to draw.  More than likely the blame should go to society as a whole, for not containing or de-radicalising a mad man, and for causing climate change to intensify, increasing the number of natural disasters, and for not policing laws better.

I am certain that God abhorred all the deaths and injuries in those events.  God doesn’t like Death and has made a way for us to avoid it from being the final sentence on us.  It raises the old question of why do bad things happen to good people.  The answer is still the same, life is not a response to good character, nor is death a response to bad.  Life happens.  Our main safeguard against the terrible is to love God and our neighbour as ourselves.  If we made all our actions conform to that, we would solve climate change tomorrow, if we saw a person being radicalised we would make an intervention right away, if we saw someone breaking the law we would prevent them at once, all in the name of Love.  But we don’t because we leave it to others to do the hard and dirty work, while we get on with things of more immediate self-interest.

It’s amazing we have thousands of years of recorded history, the Bible and a whole bunch of myths and legends and folk tales that teach us where we have gone wrong and what we should do, but do we respond accordingly as the intelligent beings we think we are ?  No !  Because we are too much of ourselves and not enough of each other, our world is too much with us, usually at the expense of others.

Well I am not saying that we don’t learn from our own experiences.  Sometimes another person or thing can turn us around, and help us see the error of our ways.  So let’s look at the parable for a minute or two.  We can go through life doing what appeals to our own self-interest.  If we were the fig tree we may not want to produce fruit;  by the way these same thoughts apply to millennials who chose to remain childless.  It’s so much better to hang around in the sun, not have to seek out that extra water, and not have people pull our fruit off our branches, it’s painful.  It takes the tree time, effort and sap to grow the fruit, where’s the benefit to the tree ?  And then someone comes along and steals the fruit, or a bug comes along and chews away at the living flesh of the fruit or the tree, that’s an ugly thing to have happen.  The only thing that can help is if someone else comes along and sprays a pesticide on the tree, which may choke off some of its other functions.  No one wins by being selfish, it’s fruitless in every sense of the word.

But life happens, represented in the parable by manure.  I am tempted to say  “Manure happens”  but that would be too crass.  However that manure, like our life experiences, does have a salutary effect on the tree and on how we view life.  A normal healthy tree blossoms, and an astute human being appreciates what has happened in life, and that benefits our understanding and on many occasions causes us to reach out to others with understanding and Christian Love.  The tree and we have now borne fruit, which is our true mission in life.

St. Paul leans in that direction too, telling us what is not right to do in life, and he reels out the consequences of getting tangled up in too much self and not enough God.  Paul says that God gives us the means to stay on the straight and narrow, if only we would listen and abide by God’s promptings.  Trouble is there is that cloud, that veil, that confuses and hides the truth from us, it is the cloud of self-interest.  But if we can shed it life becomes a whole new ball game, like opening day of Spring Training in Dunedin.

And it is like the Call Isaiah makes in today’s reading.  Now if you are not a baseball fan, it means nothing to you whether Spring Training has started or not.  Likewise to benefit from the Call Isaiah makes, you have to want to get to know God.  If you do then you will be rewarded;  you will drink from the Pierian Spring where endless knowledge is found, but drink deep for as you know  “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.  The water Isaiah talks of is the knowledge of God and those who benefit most are those thirsty for that knowledge.  It’s too easy to have a few catchphrases or to quote a few Bible verses, without context as some do.  It’s easy to speak mumbo-jumbo and mislead, like Mark Critch trying to explain cricket in the movie  “The Grand Seduction”  that we studied a while ago.  It doesn’t work.

So we are invited to not only learn but to enjoy too, to feast and to grow in God’s company.  During this Lent, focus your attention on the Scriptures we read during this Season.  Reread today’s Psalm, drink it in like cool water, think about it.  Find a quiet spot, sit down, reread it more than once, speaking it aloud.  And then think how it applies to you, how it touches you, do you have those sleepless nights when you worry about all manner of stuff ?  Or do you lie down and think about how good God has been to you ?  From whatever direction you come, know that God loves you and wants you to get to know Him better.  I pray you do !  Amen.

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