February 28, 2016: Are You An Ever-Ready Christian?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, none of us knows the time or hour of our death. And although our renewed nature eagerly awaits our entrance into glory, our flesh is still weak and that part of us worries over the uncertainty of it all. Lord, today recharge our battery of faith! Take away our apprehension! Work repentance and renewal in our hearts and lives! Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR ETERNAL SAVIOR!

TEXT: Luke 13: 1-9

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

I’ve always liked and admired Christ’s parables. They really are the ultimate in sermonizing. Think about it. Pastors devote 2 or 3 pages to explaining a spiritual truth, whereas Christ reduces that same truth down to a paragraph or two in a parable. In addition, His parables are much more memorable than any sermon. They stick with us longer and we tend not to forget them. Yes, Christ was and is the greatest preacher of all time!

Today’s parable is set against the backdrop of repentance. Repentance means sorrow over your sins and a sincere desire to change your ways through His power and grace. It is a re-charging process. In telling parables, Jesus used common things of that time to teach a greater truth. Here He uses the picture of a fig tree that is unfruitful and needs attention. If Jesus walked in our midst today, I wonder whether He would have used batteries—Duracell, Ever-ready, Ray-O-Vacs, or the re-chargeable kind to make this same point in His parable? If He did, I can well imagine His theme being:

ARE YOU AN EVER-READY CHRISTIAN?

I

People of every age often wonder: Why do natural disasters occur? They wonder: Why did Joe Smith and his family have to die in that awful traffic accident? In our lesson we see people asking Christ the same question to which Christ gives them an unexpected answer. “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. (Apparently, they had been at the temple to offer sacrifice, a riot broke out, and Pilate’s soldier’s killed a bunch of people both the guilty and the innocent Galilean bystanders.) Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'”

This wasn’t the answer you’d expect to the question: “Why do bad things happen to seemingly innocent people?” And yet, it’s Christ’s answer. His point is that instead of trying to figure out the hidden ways of God, and worrying about others you need to focus on your own relationship with Him and that means: repentance. You need to be ready at all times to meet your Maker, and that means: repentance. Yes, you and I need to be Ever-Ready Christians!

II

In our Old Testament lesson, Moses wasn’t ready that day to meet God when He appeared to him in the burning bush. Moses wasn’t ready to take on the task of leading God’s people out of slavery to the promised land. Moses even attempts to make excuses about how unready he really is! But in their conversation that day, God dealt with every excuse, repentance was worked in Moses’ heart, and the rest is history.

Likewise, in today’s epistle St. Paul speaks of the necessity to be ever-ready Christians, too. Countless people, millions actually, left Egypt with Moses and wandered those 40 years in the wilderness eating the manna and quail as they marched toward the promised land. And yet, millions died along the way. Not because God was a big meanie. But because they had to live and die with the consequences of their sin, their rebellion and distrust of God’s promises. And as to the necessity of repentance in their lives and ours and the necessity of overcoming temptations by clinging to Jesus Christ, Paul says this: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” In other words, re-charge your battery in and with Him and you’ll be an ever-ready Christian!

III

In His parable these things are clear: The vineyard is God’s order of salvation. The fig tree is Israel. The owner is God. The vinedresser is Jesus. And the three years stands for Israel’s time of grace then and our time of grace now.

Note how the vinedresser, Jesus, speaks to the Father about Israel’s state of faith, or lack of it. The Father finds it lacking. No fruit has been produced after three years. This wasn’t the usual state of fig trees. And since it is useless without fruit and simply taking up valuable space, cut it down and burn it! Yet, Jesus’ response is more patient, isn’t it? He says to leave it one more year, give it a final chance. During that time Jesus will dig around the roots and lay them bare—the Law which shows us our sin and our unfruitfulness before God—and then He’ll fertilize those roots—the gospel of forgiveness—thus giving them every opportunity to give glory to God. In other words, this very day Jesus is seeking to work repentance into our hearts so that we can bring forth true fruits born of total love!

Are you an ever-ready Christian? Have you availed yourself of Christ’s battery recharge by partaking of communion and taking to heart the words of the absolution whereby He seeks to give to you the forgiveness for all sins which He won on the cross? Are you serious about renouncing your sins and turning to Him in humble faith? Are you content to live under the dictum: Thy will be done? Or, are you like those questioning folks who came to Jesus with the thought: My will be done!? Well, only you can answer that. But don’t abuse the patience of the vinedresser! Repentance is for you and repentance is now! And so we come full circle back to our original question: Are you an ever-ready Christian? Amen