Luke 13 The Special Attention that Leads to Repentance
The Special Attention that Leads to Repentance
† I.H.S †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ make the call you hear to repentance one that you must answer. AMEN!
A Week of Why’s
As I look back over this week, it seems rather convenient that I would preach on the gospel. For in nine different very traumatic situations, no, ten situations, it would be easy to sit back and ask with the gospel, “is this why they suffer?”
Why is a family mourning they son/boyfriend was shot dead?
Why is a sheriff’s station wondering why one had to shoot someone, and why a community that normally is so supportive, could so quickly turn against them?
Why is a family being torn apart,
Why is someone facing a brutal betrayal of a friend?
Why did a 50-year-old mother die, just after burying her child last November?
Why did these things happen? Who is to blame? Was it their evil, or what God wrong to allow what happened? Ten situations, hundreds of questions asked, so few answers to offer in response.
In a way, Jesus response to these traumas seems cold, even harsh.
Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? 3 Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. 4 And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? 5 No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
What first seems heartless Is anything but. For the questions we ask we may never be answered sufficiently, though we might have a thousand theories, not of which will help us grieve, never mind heal. They just spin and spin our mind around.
Jesus asks us to move past the questions we cannot know the answers to, to contemplate, to meditate on something that has a real consequence, something that we don’t want to talk about, but we need to face.
Will we hear a call to repentance, or will perish?
I Won’t’ Perish, Will I?
I think we all need to ask regularly ourselves if Jesus came back today, would we perish?
We have to be careful with that question because it can lead to both self-righteousness and severe guilt. Both those options are deadly.
Self-righteousness that would lead us to false confidence in our holiness leads to perishing because we will grow to assume we can be holy on our own, and don’t need God.
Severe guilt leads us to believe we are beyond hope, that there is not ability to recover from where we at, stuck in sin.
Even so, we still have to ask regularly the question. Would I perish? Do I love my sin and resentment more than I love God? Have I set up false idols to worship, things that I put more trust in than God? Do I even bother with God in my life except for on Sundays and Wednesday nights for an hour or ninety minutes? Is God welcome in every part of my life?
St Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth talks about this, as part of preparing for communion,
31 But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 32 Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 (NLT)
Most of us would prefer not to do this, to not have to face the unpleasantness in our own lives. It seems much easier to bury it, to ignore it, or more than likely to justify it by pointing to others sins.
It is not the reason others undergo trauma, nor would I ever suggest that God puts us through trauma just to convert us and lead us to change. But Jesus is telling us to take stock of our lives, as these things happen. To really consider where we need Him to change us. To really see the sin that we engage in as the horrible thing that destroys our relationship with God.
Unless we repent… we will perish.
A hard line to hear – even during Lent when we expect it!
The Patience of the Gardener
So how do we repent? How can we be sure we have? Where do we find the strength to do so…
We need to understand this parable of the Owner and the Gardner. We need to realize that the Gardner is God in this passage – that the heart which is patient and wants to give special attention and plenty of fertilizer, to cultivate and cause us to bear fruit.
I love to watch Al or the Chinese congregation members tend the plants on campus. There is a tenderness there, and you could see their mind church as they decide where to dig next, or which rose branch to prune. If they do such a wonderful job, you know God will be doing the something special as He calls us to repentance.
That’s what he does at the altar, as He assures us of grace, as he lovingly nurtures us, as He provides a safe place for us to confess our sins, and hear His promise of forgiveness. It is what he does as we read of the grace and mercy of God, as we see it as we picture Him on the cross, His blood pouring out. This is where he continues to give us special attention, where he nurtures and cultivates our faith in Him.
This is how we come to live a life of repentance, assured of His work nurturing us, pruning us, cultivating us. It is an ongoing process of our faith in Christ. It starts here in Baptism, as God grants us faith and repentance, and keeps on going here at the altar, here as we worship, as we pray, as we study God’s word together as His people.
Because of His work, giving us special attention and yes, plenty of fertilizer, we are assured that we will not perish, that He has called and brought us to repentance, and is transforming us daily.
This is why we live in peace, peace that God promises is beyond understanding, peace He guards us in, our hearts and minds…. AMEN!