Sermon 24th March 2019 - 3rd Sunday in Lent –
Text Luke 13:1-9 – No blaming, just repenting
Last week saw an horrific act of violence against humanity when a gunman entered 2 mosques and killed 50 and injured around the same.
Again we are seeing what has dominated just about everything in Western society in recent times.
The left versus the right.
Each side pointing out how the other is to blame for the state of the world today.
The left blame the right for hate speech – homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia, misogyny,
The left blame the right for climate change.
The right blame the left for our moral decay through liberalism and closing down free speech and using children as political weapons with the most recent children’s rally against climate change.
Even in this shooting in New Zealand the left are blaming the right for their bigotry and the right are blaming the left from their policies on immigration.
What happened last week and what is happening with the state of our world is shocking but blaming one another, as we see, simply divides us even further.
Blaming others and pointing the finger stems from the beginning of creation when Adam blamed Eve and God.
The woman YOU gave me – SHE made me eat.
Eve blamed the serpent – he tricked me.
Jesus, in our Gospel reading, points the people away from blaming one another and urges them to look at themselves.
"Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless YOU repent, YOU will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them--do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless YOU repent, YOU will all perish just as they did."
Jesus does not apportion blame to anyone.
He doesn’t blame the sinfulness of the Galileans for what happened to them or those on whom the tower of Siloam fell as if tragedies are a cause an effect type of things.
Jesus doesn’t blame God for causing that tragedy.
What Jesus does is that he redirects their attention back onto themselves: unless YOU repent.
Why is Jesus so determined to have them look at themselves?
It’s because he wants them to experience a renewed relationship with God who doesn’t look to see who’s to blame or who to punish.
As Jesus says in John’s gospel – God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.
If we’re busy blaming others and pointing out their faults then we don’t get to experience the amazing grace that God has to offer us.
Sometimes we blame others or point out their faults because we’re afraid of what God or others will think of us.
That’s what Jesus is addressing when the people come up to him to tell him about the plight of the Galileans.
But God is a gracious God;
A God who when describing himself says:
The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
We don’t have a God who is looking for people to punish when they do wrong
This is our Lord about whom St Paul says:
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
God is not looking for a way to punish us but for a way to lead us out of our waywardness and back to his grace.
Jesus is wanting us to find the gracious God who loves us so much that he sent his one and only son to die for us – while we were yet sinners.
There is a hostile world out there – a hostile world that rejects and hates anything to do with God, Jesus and the church.
But he doesn’t need us defending him and attacking others because of him because that is not in God’s nature to do so.
God is a God who is always seeking to bring people back to him and not for us to attack the so called infidels.
Remember that we too were infidels before Jesus dealt with our sinfulness.
The difference is that we know that Jesus is defending us from God’s judgment and we should be wanting all people to know that same compassion through repentance.
Repentance is returning to our Father who has been waiting for us to come home to forgive us and not punish us – like the return of the Prodigal Son.
Like the fig tree we are given second chances, third chances and more and it is thanks to God's grace that we can feel safe and secure in the arms of Jesus when the day comes when all people will be judged.
Thank God for the patience and grace of God the gardener.
Thank God that he is the one who is tending the garden and not us.
Jesus gives himself for us.
He becomes the manure, the fertiliser for us as he is rejected, laughed at, crucified as a criminal.
On the cross he waters the ground with his own blood.
He does everything.
We do nothing.
We simply trust in his grace.
In the parable of the unfruitful fig tree we see Jesus at work for us.
What is interesting in this parable is that Jesus doesn’t finish it.
We’re not told what happens a year later.
We’re not told whether the fig tree produced fruit.
Because that’s not what Jesus wants us to focus on.
He wants us to focus on his work of grace.
And so too, in our world, he wants us to focus on his work of grace.
We’re going to continue to see atrocities like we saw in New Zealand.
As Christians our call is not to join in with the world to apportion blame.
Our call is to offer hope to the world.
Hope to the world of God’s love for the victims.
And also to offer God’s forgiveness for those who commit such atrocities.
That’s what is radical and also hard to accept – that God could even forgive them.
But we must believe that because if there is a cut off of what and who God will forgive then we would never know if that included us.
God assures us that we are forgiven as he calls us to repent and experience his grace and mercy again and again.
It is human nature to try and apportion blame as if somehow we are innocent of everything.
Just as the people asked about the man born blind: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?”
It is impossible to offer a solution to end human suffering;
What we see in our parable is a word of grace;
A word of hope:
God is still tending the garden.
God is still working in and through his people to bring light and life, love and peace to a broken and sinful world.
And in that, there is indeed hope for all.