2019-03-24 The Barren Figtree

31 Mar 2019 by Ian Forest-Jones in: Sermons

Summary: When we experience suffering we tend to blame God or anyone else, rather than look at our own lack of fruitfulness that just may have been the cause of our suffering. God is faithful, yet personal responsibility is lacking in our day.

Scripture focus: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9

Date: Sunday, 24 March 2019 (Belfield Uniting)

[img] Nigerian Christians at prayerToo Soon?

Terrorist attack against mosques in NZ on Friday, 15 March, was despicable.

People drawing attention to the ongoing and unreported persecution against Christians in Nigeria raised scorn.

On Saturday, 16 March, Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed ten Christians in southern Kaduna state, Nigeria. During the past five weeks, 140 people have died with 160 houses destroyed.

Too soon? Gives the appearance of pettiness.

Find the Grace

Perhaps we should look for the grace in the midst of tragedy?

[img] Naeem RashidNaeem Rashid, 50, a teacher and father of three who emigrated from Pakistan to New Zealand a decade ago, was busy this month planning the wedding of his son Talha, 21.

Neither father nor son lived to celebrate the occasion.

Video footage of the shootings showed Naeem Rashid trying to tackle the gunman before being shot.

Both were killed on Friday, along with seven other Pakistanis, when a gunman struck at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 50 people and wounding scores.

But since then, Rashid has become a national hero in his native country, after video footage of the shootings showed him trying to tackle the gunman outside one mosque before being shot.

Why?

When we experience suffering we tend to blame God or anyone else, rather than look at our own lack of fruitfulness that just may have been the cause of our suffering. God is faithful, yet personal responsibility is lacking in our day.

What?

The epistle reading provides application to last week’s sermon on believing is seeing.

Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them, since they were struck down in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:5)

The ancient people of Israel had every opportunity to believe because they saw God. Nevertheless, they did not change their behaviour, did not live in accordance with the Law they covenanted with God to follow.

Now these things took place as examples for us, so that we will not desire evil things as they did. (1 Corinthians 10:6)

God did not make examples of them, but they do serve as examples/instruction. Why should we not expect discipline for sinful behaviour?

No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

We might like to complain that temptation is too overwhelming, but this is an excuse and not acceptable. God is with us and nothing with which we are tempted will overwhelm us if we love, trust and obey, for his strength is made available in our weakness.

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.” (Luke 13:5)

The gospel reading provides examples of people who died. The faulty consensus was they had sinned and were thus punished. Jesus stated this was false, but we should stop sinning anyway, else we find ourselves disciplined.

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none...

‘Perhaps it will produce fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’ ” (Luke 13:9)

So What?

In the midst of tragedy or personal suffering, will our faith continue or falter? Will we lash out at others or will we find the grace and learn what available to learn?

[img] ReGrace by Frank ViolaFrank Viola has written a book called ReGrace: The Shocking Beliefs of the Great Christians. Viola’s intention with the book is to uncover some of the shocking beliefs held by faith giants like C.S. Lewis, Luther, Calvin, Moody, Spurgeon, Wesley, Graham, and Augustine —not to downgrade or dismiss them, but to show that even “the greats” in church history didn’t get everything right.

Knowing the heroes of our faith sometimes got it wrong will empower us to treat our fellow Christians with grace rather than disdain whenever we disagree over theology.

In November 2014, Rick Warren asked Frank to write a series of blog posts on the shocking beliefs of the great Christians who shaped the church (especially the evangelical wing). Warren’s hope was that the series would “soften” the uncivil climate in the Christian community over doctrinal differences.

This is the same Rick Warren who is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch in Lake Forest, California that is the sixth-largest megachurch in the United States (including multi-site churches). He is also a bestselling author of many Christian books, including his guide to church ministry and evangelism, The Purpose Driven Church, which has spawned a series of conferences on Christian ministry and evangelism. He is perhaps best known for the subsequent book The Purpose Driven Life which has sold more than 30 million copies, making Warren a New York Times bestselling author.

When Frank acknowledges Warren’s instigation, trolls attack Warren as a heretic, thereby proving the purpose of the book and how necessary it is.

Instead of focussing on the sinfulness of others, perhaps we should be more concerned with the barrenness of ourselves.

Now What?

When we experience suffering we tend to blame God or anyone else, rather than look at our own lack of fruitfulness that just may have been the cause of our suffering. God is faithful, yet personal responsibility is lacking in our day.

Let us pray:

Your glory and power, O God,
surround us in the sanctuary.
We lift up our hands and call on your name.
We are your people,
thirsty for the living water you alone can give.
When we consider how you have helped us,
giving us a spring that gushes up to eternal life,
we cling to you,
singing praises with joyful lips;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.