Lectionary Text for the Third Sunday in Lent:
Psalm 63:1-8: A Psalm of David,
when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
1O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
5My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
6when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
8My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Luke 13:1-9: At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
6 Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” 8He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”
COMMENT: I once heard from someone in some distant past, “A Christian is like a teabag. You can’t tell what he or she is made of until you put in hot water.” Steeped in the character of David and the other Psalmists, in spite of lament and cries for help, is the eventual turning to God.
So it is with Psalm 63. David uses the words, “my soul thirsts and flesh faints…” as metaphor for the times we find ourselves spiritually and emotionally desolate. But David gives the remedy in verses 2-8. He sings of going into the ‘sanctuary’. Going to the church house or the inner sanctum of our souls, we will find God: “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast…” There, in the church, among the caring saints or meditating alone on the faithfulness of God, we find contentment for our souls: “and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.”
Mourning is a normal healthy human expression when we find ourselves in the ‘wilderness’ places of grief, whatever the cause. However, a person whose soul is infused with the Spirit of God knows where to find help and asks. A person whose life is immersed in God’s love recognizes when God sends a soothing word or touch through the right person at the right time.
In Luke 13, Jesus encounters the mindset that suffering becomes the barometer of the magnitude of sin—the greater the consequence, the greater the sin. I heard a comment that the earthquake in Haiti is evidence of the sinful state of those who live there. With this in mind, how do we view the state of the souls of the earthquake victims of Chile? How do the parents who lost their daughters by suicide this week measure themselves as parents?
Jesus uses the metaphoric style of the parable to challenge this distorted mindset and offer the change necessary for healing. Those questioning him are symbolized as the fig tree that bares no fruit. The owner of the fig tree honors the gardener’s request to spare the tree for one year. The gardener wants to tend the tree, in the hope that it will bare fruit.
The Lenten season is characterized by our consent to go into our ‘private wildernesses’ through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and sacrificial care of others. God also uses the disciplines to expose our unkind mindsets and behaviors; to break up the hard ground around our hearts to make room for growth. In this process we may be called upon to perform unpleasant tasks that ultimately make our souls more fertile.
Oh LORD of the wilderness, from the deep well of your Presence, satisfy our thirst. Oh God of the vineyard produce right attitudes in us towards our neighbor through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and kind acts. Prepare us during this time of Lent to appreciate the magnitude of resurrection power in our lives. Amen
©March 4, 2010
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