Week 3 of Lent - Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Lent
Sunday March 3rd, 2013
Sunday March 3rd, 2013
'He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down."'
There’s something about Jesus’ urgent plea for us to repent of sin in order to avoid God’s judgment that makes us instantly want to change the topic, even during Lent. The same was true in Jesus’ day. Their response to Jesus’ call to repent appears to have been to ask: “But what about the Galileans’ tragic murder?” They continue: “Those people must have sinned a lot to deserve such a death, right Jesus?” When facing hard challenges from Jesus we humans can be artful dodgers.
Have you ever noticed that someone being strongly convicted by the Holy Spirit will ask an evasive question like: “what about those who have never heard of Jesus? Will they be held accountable for not repenting?” Jesus’ answer is clearly no. As he makes clear in this passage, individual blame and responsibility are not the point. Rather, all human suffering stems from the sin of all. Jesus then returns us to the real point: we all need to repent––now! In fact, as the story of the unfruitful fig tree teaches, God is patiently giving us extra time to repent in order to bear fruit. (As we repent of sin, God enables us by his grace to bear fruit for him and others.)
Our choices are stark: either repent from sin in order to bear fruit, or face judgment for sin as a result of which we die. All of a sudden repentance is sounding pretty good. Which it is!
If repentance is so important, what does it entail? True Christian repentance includes not only turning away from sin, but turning to Jesus. And turning to Jesus includes not only embracing his friendship and lifestyle, but it includes, importantly, specifically turning to Jesus’ death as his serving of humanity’s penalty for sin. Jesus took our place when he died. Repentance does not evade God’s judgment. Rather it transfers it to Christ who bore God’s judgment for us.
By next Lent it may be too late. Repent now, says Jesus. What do we have to gain but grace, fruit and eternal life with God? What do we have to lose but judgment for sin and death apart from God? No wonder Jesus won’t change the topic. And neither should we.
Gracious Father, we suffer in sin. But you gave us your only son to teach us to love you and one another. Help me Lord, to turn away from sin. Help me Lord to turn back to You. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Glen Taylor
Professor of Scripture and Global Christianity, and Basic Degree Director. Currently, Glen is focused on biblical inspiration and the Christology of the Hebrew Psalter. Outside of Wycliffe, Glen serves as an Anglican priest in the country parish north of Muskoka in the summer.
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