Sermon Lent 3C 2019 The Rev. John M. Atkins
3Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest
of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to
Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared
to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was
blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn
aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not
burned up.” 4 When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see,
God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said,
“Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals
from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy
ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid
his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who
are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters.
Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver
them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a
good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the
country of the Canaanites… 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to
bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
Gospel of Luke 13:1-9
13At that very time there were some present who told him about
the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their
sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these
Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other
Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish
as they did. 4 Or 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? 5 No, 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. 7 So 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?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for
one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it
bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it
+ + + + +
All of the time, God is attempting to gain our attention.
The story of Moses is woven into the salvation story of the Hebrew People.
God got Moses’ attention by speaking from within a scrub burning but not
consumed. It was a dramatic attention-grabber for a most critical objective: freeing the
Hebrews from Egyptian slavery.
God continues vying for our awareness. God desires all of us to live in freedom,
physical, emotional and spiritual freedom.
Jesus was God’s voice proclaiming and inviting people into freedom. For Jesus,
freedom is understood as unleashing and expressing the Divine Potential within each
person, allowing us to live within God’s kingdom. An important, uncompromising
component of accepting God’s freedom is repentance.
Some of Jesus’ contemporaries saw themselves above the need for repentance.
Their lives seemed to be going OK. That attitude persists today.
Jesus lived at a time when victims of disease and calamities were blamed for their
own misery, judged as atrocious sinners, and often excommunicated from both
synagogue and society. There are some religious groups today holding to that same
Jesus refuted that belief.
He described two real-life situations familiar to his listeners. Then, Jesus moved
beyond the superstitious, warning all his listeners to be prepared. Whether we are
preparing for the best life we can live, life or our inevitable death, we must be prepared
if we are going to live within God’s freedom.
Repentance is a key ingredient of preparing. New Testament Professor, Matt
Skinner, writes: “The need for repentance is a universal condition shared by random
victims and finger-crossing survivors.”
We’ve all allowed temptation to get the best of us. We’ve all made foolish and
selfish choices, abandoning the Divine Potential in us.
Jesus tells the parable of a non-productive fig tree. The point is, God is patient
with us, yet, life is fragile and unpredictable.
Jesus calls us to repent and welcome God’s love, abandoning unhealthy attitudes
and behaviors, and exposing the Divine Potential in us. Then we are prepared for life
within God’s freedom both here and in the life beyond.
Altar Flowers are discouraged during Lent in our tradition. But St. Paul’s was
given these lovely flowers yesterday by the Family of Kenneth Zarbock, Sr. He died at
the age of 85. I intentionally placed these flowers in front of the Altar for today as a
stark reminder that people rarely know the time when their life will end and they will
come face to face with God. It does us well to plan ahead for that meeting.
Remember, God attempts to gain our attention so that we will know that
God cares, God loves us, and that God invites us to prepare for life within the
Eternal Divine Presence.
As you drive south on Far Hills about 3 miles, after crossing the intersection
at David Road, turn your head to the right. It’s at that location where God has for us an
unexpected visual aide. You will see a seemingly paradoxical and humorous image for
our welfare. I don’t think God planned it, just uses it, if we pay attention.
Immediately on the right past the intersection is David Cemetery. The next
property is Fall Hills Travel Agency. Continuing south, across the driveway is a church
building. Can you imagine that visual: Cemetery, Travel Agency, Church.
I wonder how many people in David Cemetery made preparations like they
would on an extended vacation for their departing from this life and entrance into the
I wonder how many people leave on a vacation without making plans, or without
considering the cost, or not packing a bag of appropriate clothing, or void of some sense
of anticipation for what they expect at their journey’s end.
I wonder how many people at any church really see their lives gushing with
Divine Potential that changes the world and allows us to live within God’s love and
freedom both here and in the world beyond.
At all times, God is attempting to gain our attention. God is patient, yet, life
is fragile and unpredictable. God doesn’t want to scare us. God desires to prepare
us, love us, and offer us freedom to delight in living the Divine Potential planted in
each of us.
A sweet lady, at her honoree luncheon said: “A life is made, not by chance,
but by choice and change.” (Chris Saunders, 2/21/2019)
Jesus calls out to us, encouraging us to choose to repent, change and forsake our
unhealthiness, our sinfulness, in order to live as our true, divinely blessed self.