Jesus knew trees. As a carpenter, he understands how even the chopped-down tree has its uses. Like everyone else in ancient times, he eats directly from trees along the way.

Thomas Merton said, “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. . . . It ‘consents’ . . . to [God’s] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God . . . and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree. The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like [God]. If it tried to be like something else which it was never intended to be, it would be less like God and therefore it would give [God] less glory.”*

The tree in Jesus’ parable isn’t being itself; it has produced no fruit. So the owner says, “Cut it down!” But the patient vinedresser pleads for care, more manure! Give it one more year.

God’s greatest gift to us is time. And what is our time for? To become ourselves, to produce fruit. Like a tree, which requires sun, rain, and soil, I am not my own; I need God’s creative energy, word, and mercy. What matters in me is what goes down deep, my roots, the unseen.

Jesus looks for fruit in me. My true self emerges not when I grit my teeth and try hard, but when God works in and through me. No matter how humble, faithful, and holy my life might be, sometimes I don’t produce the fruit I’d like or that God needs. What is Jesus’ response? Time, yes, but also this: Not long after this parable, someone cuts down another tree which becomes Jesus’ cross. Gnarled, sweat- and blood-stained, a wondrous cross.

*Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1962), 29.

Lord, I am yours; bear your fruit in me so I may glorify you. Amen.

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Read Luke 13:1-9

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Lectionary Week
March 18–24, 2019
Scripture Overview

In the midst of Lent, when many might be giving up a certain food that they love, we read about feasting. The focus is not on physical feasting, but on feasting as a metaphor for communing with God. Isaiah describes food and drink that one cannot buy with money, for it comes freely from the Lord. The psalmist describes the state of his soul as being hungry and thirsty. Only meditating on God’s faithfulness nourishes his soul at the deepest level. Physical food is momentary, but spiritual nourishment endures. In First Corinthians, Paul appeals to this imagery. Although the ancients experience this spiritual nourishment, some pursue physical pleasure and stray into idolatry and immorality. Partaking in this nourishment should cause us in turn to produce spiritual fruit, as Jesus admonishes his listeners.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 55:1-9. When has God’s grace inverted your expectations?
Read Psalm 63:1-8. As you mature in faith, what new questions about God do you ask?
Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Think of a time you have faced great temptation. How did God help you endure it?
Read Luke 13:1-9. For what do you need to repent?

Respond by posting a prayer.

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