Daily Office Readings – Gospel ( Luke 13:1-9 )
When I was a pastor for a small church up in the pacific northwest, I received a phone call one day. The call came from another pastor in our diocese, who wanted to let me know that he had a “word of knowledge” for me.
For those of you not particularly versed in the charismatic / pentecostal nomenclature, a “word of knowledge” is a personal prophecy, or discernment, regarding what God is doing in the life of another person. These can at times be very powerful, when truly directed by God. When not directed by God, they tend to take on the likeness of a battering ram, particularly when used to manipulate and control.
Since he had started the conversation out this way, I asked him to share this Word of Knowledge with me.
“God told me to tell you that the reason your church isn’t growing is because there is sin in your life.”
“Did God tell you exactly what that sin might be?” I asked.
“No,” he replied, “Just that you have sin in your life.”
I think I chuckled a bit at that point.
“Well, unless God is directing you to convict me of something in particular, what I can tell you is that every one of us has sin in our lives.” I paused to let that sink in. “It’s a fact we can’t escape.” I paused again. “So, unless you have something specific to add to my own discernment, I can’t do much with your ‘Word of Knowledge’ for me.”
He admitted that he did not have anything more specific. And, after a few more polite pleasantries, we hung up.
This man had hoped to let me know that my church’s failure to grow was a result of my sinfulness. That God was somehow punishing my church through me. Or maybe God was just punishing me.
This idea that God will punish people for being “more sinful” than others has been with us for a very long time. In today’s Gospel, Jesus has to remind those he is talking to that God does not punish people because they were “more sinful” than others. Sometimes bad things just happen. And, what’s more, Jesus reminds them that all of us are in need of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of repentance. Unless we all repent, we will perish just as those who faced unexpected death under the tower of Siloam.
The question, then, isn’t whether or not we have sin in our lives. We do. The question is what we will do with it.
After confronting those he was talking to with their own sin, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree that was producing no fruit. The owner of the fig tree has come out for three years, and found no fruit on the tree, so he tells the gardener to cut it down. But the gardener tells him to give the tree another chance. He, the gardener, will dig a trench around it and put some manure on it, so that it has another chance to really grow. But if it doesn’t produce fruit by the next year, then the gardener will follow through and cut down the tree.
This parable ends without a resolution. We don’t know if the tree grew fruit the next year or not. Will it produce fruit next year, or will it be destroyed? This is the warning for those listening to Jesus, and it is a reminder for us. We are sinful, and yet we are also forgiven. The more we recognize this, the more we grow in Christ, and the more our lives bear fruit worthy of our repentance.
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.