About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.”
Then he told them a story: “A man had a fig tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find fruit, but there was none. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting figs and not one fig have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’
“The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then chop it down.’”
When I was 5 years old my family lived in Washington State under the shadow of Mount St. Helens. Our house was framed by apple orchards, a lazy river, and neatly kept houses with porches and well-manicured lawns. I was in to Star Wars, Happy Days, Evil Knievel, baseball, and The Muppets.
We went to church on Sundays. Had weekend picnics with the family. Dad played softball. Mom stayed at home and made bread, cookies, and the best meatloaf. At night when we went to sleep we could hear the angry conversations…hushed and muffled anger, trying to not awaken the sleeping angels in the other room. Underneath the surface of our perfect family was another volcano waiting to erupt.
On Sunday May 18, 1980 that ancient stratovolcano blew its top and left a wake of destruction over 50 miles wide and spewing ash across 11 States. In less than a year my personal family volcano would erupt leaving a wake of destruction over 3 little boys and spewing ashes across several decades.
If you visit the National Moment that stands there now you will see a barren crater, part of the time blanketed with snow and signs of life emerging as you go down from the mountain top. As you make your way down the mountainside you see trees clustered together as the forest below regrows. Over time the chaos of the eruption actually provided nutrients to rebuild. The radically changed landscape still holds life.
Nature is resilient. Nature can stand category 5 winds. Nature can burn to the ground and regrow within months. Nature takes time. Nature looks at time in a different light than we do.
To a mountain a 10,000 years is but a moment in time. Seasons are the second hands on the clock of nature, measured in moments, events, and cycles. Predictable cycles if you wait around long enough.
Have we forgot that we too are part of nature? We are a part of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creation. God made the heavens and the earth, separated the sky, land, and sea, filled the sea with creatures with fins, gills, and blowholes, placed upon the land creatures with hooves, horns, hearts, scales, and fur, and in the air God place creatures with wings, beaks, and talons. Then there is us. We might have been last but a part of nature none the least.
Resilience is part of our story. Reliance is at the core of the story of the people of God. God’s love does not fade and our resolve to abide in that love never fades.
I want you to listen to this as part of God’s divine creation. “Then he told them a story: “A man had a fig tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find fruit, but there was none. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting figs and not one fig have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’”
Waste, that’s a dirty word these days. With arguments of governmental waste in public entitlements, trimming the fay in hard economic times filling the politico news channels it is hard to escape the talk of waste. How many of you have ever planted a fig tree?
The funny thing about fig trees, besides making delicious cookies when combined with a little mega brand magic, fig trees don’t always bear fruit the first few years you plant them. It takes time for these resilient little trees to take root, flourish and find there way to sweet fruit.
None of us do. It takes time for any of us to flower and produce fruit even in the best of soil. Jesus is calling us to remember to be to be patient both with ourselves and with others in the process of bearing fruit. Not all that we do will bear fruit tomorrow or even in out lifetime. The fruit our lives bear might not be evident for 100’s of years. This is the time in which we must hold on to the reliance of faith, trusting that God holds us together as part of the bigger picture of creation. We are fashioned fearfully and wonderfully to be part of the long arc of history as we careen towards thy Coming Kingdom.
This is not a promise that no harm, horror, hurt, or pain shall be fall you. Resilience is earned. “The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then I’ll chop it down.’”
You hear, after you encounter fruitless years. After the toil had taken its toll and the soil is scorched earth. God asks for one more year. God will dig around us, fertilize us, and care for us in hopes that next year we shall produce fruit. A promise of presence, not a promise of absence. This is God pointing us towards resilience and hopeful fruit.
Sometimes you have to go through a whole lotta manure to get that fruit. Resilience is our companion towards wholeness. Wholeness in Christ. Wholeness in each other. For wholeness is our birthright, but it’s not granted magically. It takes time. It takes Practice. It takes Patience. It takes Experience. It takes the Deep roots of community. It takes us all.