Once again our readings for this week in Luke 13:1-9l appear to pair two disparate themes: tragedy and horticulture. But do they? Are they related?
When bad things happen to good people sometimes our way of making sense of the world can be shattered - emotionally, spiritually, physically - and also mentally. How often do we relate catastrophic events of our world and lives to “divine punishment” for some misdeeds? Jesus knows the temptation to yield to our human nature and give up is strong. His asking us to repent seems hardly a consolation in the context of our contemporary understanding of the word, “repent.” However, the repentance (metanoia) Jesus calls for is a summons to a personal, absolute and ultimate unconditional surrender to God as Sovereign.
While it includes sorrow and regret, repentance is more than that. It is a call to conversion from self-love, self-trust, and self-assertion to obedient trust and self-commitment to God. It is a change of mind that involves a conscious turning away from wrong actions, attitudes and thoughts that conflict with a Godly lifestyle, and is an intentional turning toward doing that which pleases God. The words "repent," "repentance," and "repented" are mentioned over 100 times in the Bible. (Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology).
OK, so while we might suffer human pain for tragic events such as Katrina; the tsunami in Japan; the massacres in Syria, Rwanda and right here at home with, Sandy…we are not accountable or held to blame. We are, however, being summoned to keep our eye on the prize and continue to turn our lives to seeking a closer union with God as we live in the love of Christ.
So, where does horticulture fit in? The virtually dead fig tree, consuming valuable resources and time seems hopeless, yet may still be worth trying to save. It requires turning of the soul/soil and nurturing it. We are all gardeners as we work at sustaining life even when all seems futile, but by surrendering to God's will by the power of the Holy Spirit, hope will be restored and our lives will be transformed.