3rd Sunday of Lent
Scripture: St. Luke 13:6-10
As we look at our text today, we see the fig tree and you and I have much in common in our growth problems.
Uselessness invites disaster. Taking only out of something and giving nothing in return, invites death.
There is more than one chance for spiritual life and growth, but there is a final chance.
The fig tree had a choice spot in the rocky soil. The soil was shallow but able to support the fruitfulness of the fig tree. It takes about 3 years for a new fig tree to produce fruit. In all that time, there is no evidence that the tree will bear fruits. If the fig tree or local church family shows no evidence of producing, our uselessness invites disaster. One must prove their worth and effort in bringing forth new life.
The gardener, by his actions of digging around the tree and waters it faithfully, shows that it gets a second chance. However, the story tells us that there is an eventual cut-off of chances if we do not produce what we have the ability to do.
Our local church congregation goes through the same cycle as the tree does. For reasons beyond our understanding and knowledge, other saw a need for an active church on this corner. Countless member have worshiped and served this church, and the Lord has blessed us. We have seen sparse growth at times and abundance in other times. In times of great growth spiritual and physical, we rejoice and praise the Lord. In times of little growth, I wonder if the Lord is testing our faith or seeking to change the direction of our ministry.
We have to face up to the reality that the church and its life are not the main focus in our lives today.
60-70 years ago, our lifestyle was centered around the church. We had Sunday morning worship and a Sunday evening service. Wednesday was used for Bible study and prayer group. Nearly every church was full of children, youth, and young adults.
This is not the churches' reality today, yet I personally believe that the Lord is not ready to throw in the towel (so to speak) in many small membership churches.
He offers us chance after chance to look at ourselves and see a plus or minus in our ministries, for we are both the problem and the solution to bring new life to us and the church community. One step is to realize that we are His hands, heart, and voice in the world today. Society will not respond to us unless we offer more than society offers the people.
Look what society and the 12-hour work shift have done to the church.
A case in point is that a grandson and granddaughter who are RNs both work four 12-hour shifts. They're off 3 days and on 4. Then they works 3 on and off 4. This cycle repeats.
In the oil industry in Alaska, workers are either on a 7- or 14-day turnaround. They fly up to the north slope, work 12 hours a day each day they are there, fly home, and are home 7 or 14 days before repeating the same schedule. One local pastor told me, “It’s like having 2 congregations.”
What does that do to the life of the local church? What does this do to family life? We need to block out a time slot for looking at our particular solution in the middle of Indiana to see how the church can respond to these situations. Worship schedules of yesterday will not do today. Doing what we have done in yesteryears will not bring new life and growth to the church and each family involved.
I don’t know the answers in solving the churches problems in these days, yet she must meet the demands of society to be fruitful. I realize that many small churches are running out of chances of being effective in the mission of the church and we see the results if we don’t try to meet the demands of the people seeking spiritual growth.
Are we willing to try new ways to bring Christ to others and refresh our own awareness of Christ in our lives? We need to brainstorm new and fruitful ministries.
The Lord, being our helper and guide, will help and direct us in the changes we need to make immediately. Amen!