Third Sunday in Lent

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Becoming Hot or Cold

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait. Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"
Once upon a time God planted a tree in his garden. You know the story. And then he told the man and the woman, his only friends in those days, not to touch it. The tree was full of apples, or something like that. May be pears or peaches. Who knows. But let us go with the apples. He told the man and the woman not to eat the fruit, even though it looked delicious and tasty. It was very tempting to them.
Just on the side note. This is why Jesus taught the prayer, “Lord, lead us not into temptation.” If God puts the best fruit in the middle of your garden and tells you, don’t touch it. Good luck. Right? Now I know why he taught the prayer. OK. We will talk about that some other time.
Then things went wrong. Eve was tempted by the talking snake to eat the fruit. The delicious fruit from the tree that God planted. Then the man came along and the woman thought, this is delicious, I should share it with him. What’s wrong with that? Now this is what happened after those two ate the delicious fruit of the tree.
She got wise, or clever, and he became stupid or slow. You won’t believe me, I know. That’s because you haven’t read read the story. This is what it says.
They ate it and their eyes were opened. They knew they have work to do. They thought they didn’t look that beautiful in their nakedness and needed to cover up. God asked the man, where are you? He responded, “I am in the bush.” God again, “Why?”, the man said, “hiding here.” God was perplexed. What happened to you? The man said, “I am naked.” They were straight forward answers. Do you think all of these answers are smart? And then she was clever. She came out and said, “Dad, look, I ate the fruit. I shouldn’t have.” Then she threw the snake under the bus and said, “See that, the snake talks and he just told me it would make me wise. Why shouldn’t I be knowledgeable like you? Is that the point of it all?”
What can God do to that? It’s not like I am in the bush, hiding, and naked. Or may be they both learned who to blame when things went wrong.
Our temptation is to blame the snake, the woman and the man for the fate we are in, like we find in the first part of the Gospel. Was it the problem of the sins of the Galileans?
We want to blame someone or something for the troubles in our lives. It’s simply human behavior. It is in this context Jesus says, don’t do it. Don’t blame the tree or the snake or even yourself. Start doing something about why things are not working in your lives.
Dig around the tree. Put some manure around it and let your life produce good. In the story of the Garden of Eden, the Lord was trying to teach this early on, it’s good to fruit and flower like the tree in the middle of the garden. It’s good to know the difference between being fruitful and being unfruitful. It’s good to learn when to pluck the flowers and harvest the fruit.
In short the story here is all about taking responsibility for our lives and actions. Jesus is calling us to grow up. He is inviting us to understand the difference between wisdom and knowledge. It’s the same thing God asks Adam and Eve. Grow up and understand the difference between wisdom and knowledge.
Our tendency like that of Adam and Eve is to put the blame on someone or something for the suffering and pain we go through.
The story of the fig tree here is the story of unfruitful behavior unlike what we see in the book of Joel. Joel 2: 22 “Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield.” That’s what we should be doing. Give our full yield.
The story of the fig tree here is telling us of the apathy and indecision that is widespread among the listeners of those who follow Jesus.
“It's a disease. Nobody thinks or feels or cares any more; nobody gets excited or believes in anything except their own comfortable little damn mediocrity.” ― Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road. Sisters and brothers, we have to come alive, as Howard Thurman invites us.
“I would rather a romantic relationship turn into contempt than turn into apathy. The passion in the extremities make it appear as though it once meant something. We grow from hot or cold, but lukewarm is the biggest insult.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy
The story of the tree is always the story of wisdom and knowledge. It is understanding when to do the things you are called to and then when not to, and doing something about it. The story is much more than about the apple or the peach on the tree in the middle of a garden. It is a lot more than just talking about the people of Ukraine or Russia, it is about our willingness to listen deeper, do better when God inspires us to do change our lives.
Remember this as you re-enter the world after church today.
“All that you touch, You change. All that you Change, changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change. God Is Change.” Octavia Butler (Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. Open Road Media. Kindle Edition. 1993)
To bear fruit is to let the seed die!
To flower is to shed the petals soon.
To fruit and flower is being hot or cold one way or another.
Let us stop blaming someone else for the times we did not fruit or flower or ate from someone else’s garden.
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