Third Sunday before Lent
Luke 13: 1-9 Isaiah 55:1—9
It is impossible for me to let the Isaiah reading go without comment, even though we are supposed to preach from the Gospel at the Eucharist service. It has always been a favourite passage of Old Testament Scripture.
Open the newspaper, and out flutters half a forest of flyers - amazing, not-to-be-missed offers on this, and that and mainly the other: Everything from loose covers, decking, deep fat fryers and blinds, always Venetian blinds; does anyone actually use Venetian blinds these days I wonder?
In the west we are such suckers for a bargain, stopping off at the hole in the wall
on our way to rummage through the shops.
So why do we, the self-styled experts in spotting a good offer at a hundred paces consistently miss the best offer of all?
'Come, all you who are thirsty, come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.'
Are we thirsty?
Despite the vast array of bottles at the bar in the pub and the four whole aisles at Asda and Tesco offering every possible variety of drinks to quench our thirst, I would dare to say that we are.
Whether we are blessed with the world's goods, or deprived of them we all thirst.:
We thirst to know the meaning of the journey of life.
We thirst to know love and feel loved.
Even if we don’t know it, we thirst for the God shaped hole in each of our souls to be filled.
And we are all weary.
Weary of walking the same way and never getting there.
Weary of falling short of the measure set by others.
Weary of the weight of doubt we are not supposed to have and weary of just hanging in there.
Thirsty, yes I think we all have a soul thirst; but looking to God to satisfy it – now that is different matter altogether.
Some would say No way! I’d rather die first. . .Coca-cola, after all, is the real thing.
Weary, yes: and worn down yes, but coming to Christ? No way! They would rather drown their sorrows, and ring a therapist.
You see a bargain is one thing; but a free gift is quite another – and the world is suspicious about free gifts, they think it will be a small plastic letter opener, and a bribe to take a catalogue.
But God is offering a free gift, ‘Come you who have no money come buy eat,’ unlike the world, God, plays by quite different rules.
Having thoughts that are not our thoughts, ways that are not our ways,
He gives us no chance to pride ourselves on having snapped up a bargain; rather he gives us the chance to humble ourselves in accepting the truly free gift that cost Him dearly.
I believe there is a price to be paid after all? What it will cost us to come? – nothing but what will it cost us to leave things behind? That is the question we all have to wrestle with.
Can we put this off for another day, after all life if fine as it is.
Can we afford to delay?
Why does the prophet Isaiah say?
'Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near'.
It would indicate that there is an expiry date but surely there is no expiry date on the offer of salvation? Surely the grace of God can never be in short supply?
It is true that the invitation to come is to all who are thirsty, it always has my name on, and yours and no one need ever be left outside — yet there will come a day, when the guest list will be closed, then it will be too late to "repondez s'il vous plait".
The parable of the fig tree brings the message home. For three successive seasons the fig tree has produced no fruit. Its owner justifiably declares that the tree be cut down and its soil reclaimed. The gardener accepts this, but pleads for one more season of nurture to encourage it to fruit. Like the tree, Jesus offers God’s people an opportunity to repent and seek God’s will for their lives. God is digging around our roots, spreading manure in the hope that we’ll blossom and bear fruit, because He loves us, loves us, loves us enough to hold us accountable for our faults and forgive us our sins as long as this life shall last.
The Gospel reading opened with innocent Galileans being slaughtered by Pilate and a tower falling on innocent people. It begs the question I get asked all the time. ‘Why do bad things happen to good people? Jesus doesn’t answer the question and neither can we. Sometimes misfortune is of our own making and sometimes it is tragically unlucky. It is the consequence of living in a broken world. But Jesus isn’t beneath using such occasions to invite us to wake up – or in this case, turn around and repent.
Stories of judgement and repentance are no more popular today than they were in Jesus’ time. We hesitate to talk about sin for fear of offending someone. In this season of Lent, the church has an opportunity to seek restoration and renewal through the discipline of confession and heartfelt repentance.
The free gift of God is on offer today.
Come to the water and be cleansed, come to the table and eat the bread and drink the wine of forgiveness, for like the fig tree we never know when such grace will end in an ultimate reckoning for the world.