Friday, March 19, 2010

Some thoughts on John 12:1-8

Mary took half a litre of a very expensive perfume made of pure nard, poured all of it on Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The sweet smell of the perfume filled the whole house. John 12:3

In a world filled with horrible acts that we do to each other...murder, war, theft, adultery, terrorism...there is a voice that calls us to acts of and costly acts of love. Acts that are not measured in proportion to the possible response or even previous encounters. Acts which are purely and simply expressions of love. Acts of that is undeserved and unearned.

In the midst of this world is God’s grace. We are the people of that grace. We are the people of that God.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Its not about being lost...

"You leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the pasture and go looking for the one that got lost until you find it...She lights a lamp, sweeps her house, and looks carefully everywhere until she finds it...He was still a long way from home when his father saw him." (Luke 15)

It's easy when you read these parables to think about what is lost. Sheep. Coin. Son. All are valuable. But it struck me that there is a stronger emphasis on the diligence of the search. The aspect of never giving up "until you find it". It is a reminder that this is how God relates to you and me. God is continually searching for you...looking for you...finding you. Never giving up on you or despairing, but always ready...waiting...watching...and willing to welcome you home with loving arms of grace and a place of honour in the family of faith...the people of God.

It is also a reminder that we should not look in judgment on people. All of us are in our own way both 'lost and found' or as Paul puts it in his letters 'sinner and saint'. So let us greet one another with compassion, mercy, acceptance, love and grace, welcoming the fellowship and community this brings. This is what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.(NOTE: He was criticized by the 'religious' people of his day for eating with 'sinners') This is what he invites us to do for all people.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gardens, grace and manure....

Luke 13:6-9

Then Jesus told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'
Luke 13:6-9

In a book on Biblical flora and fauna I was reading I came across this interesting fact about fig trees and this parable. Fig trees take about 3 years to reach maturation before they produce fruit. Then 3 more years growth before fruit becomes clean. The fruit of the 7th year is offered to the Lord as the first crop (cf Leviticus 19:23). So the fact that the owner has come for 3 years expecting fruit means that it has yet to give this first fruit and therefore almost 6 years have passed and tree is still barren. So we are not talking about an impatient owner, but an obviously barren fig tree. Hopelessly barren.

Meanwhile this fig tree is using up the soil as fig trees absorb specially large amount of nourishment from soil and deprive surrounding plants (in this case vines) of needed sustenance. So it is no surprise that the owner wants to cut it down...and that includes digging out the stump and roots so that no trace of the tree is left.

Normally fig trees require little or no care so the proposal of the gardener is unusual. His willingness to dig around the tree and place fertilizer are extreme measures. If these fail...then the tree will be removed.

There is a bit of humour here as Jesus' hearers would have recognize the barren fig tree as a reference to Israel and the religious leaders of the day so the picture of them standing up to their ankles in manure would have been a colourful one.

But, as always, there is a more serious side to this parable. It isn't about judgement either. Rather there is a message about grace...about being given one more chance...about a Saviour who loves us even though we rebel against him...about Jesus who dies for us while we are still enemies. And even though our lives are barren he keeps coming back to us another chance...lifting us up in grace and forgivness...encouraging us to bear fruit that 'befits repentance' before our time runs out. For God's grace is infinite, but our time to receive this grace is not.