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Repent, change, bear fruit

Brenda Cottarel, Sunday 28th February, 2016

 The readings and the Gospel share a theme this 3rd week of Lent: repent, change and bear fruit.

The Old Testament reading from Isaiah calls us to repent, even the wicked and unrighteous, even for us, there is hope, if we turn to God, He freely forgives and abundantly pardons. St Paul in the N.T. reading bids us to repent and change, he tells us no one is spiritually exempt from temptation but God is with us always, the judge and the helper, He will provide a way out for us.

“Unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”  A statement, an admonition, straight from the lips of Jesus straight from the centre of the Gospel reading for this 3rd Sunday of Lent: “Repent” Jesus offers this exhortation not once but twice in this relatively short passage and He enunciates the word, it hits me right between the eyes but what does this have to do with you and me?

Jesus had a way with dealing with these questions, He was very aware that a picture, sometimes, is worth a thousand words. So, as Luke’s Gospel relates, Jesus presents us with a parable and uses the image of a fig tree to illustrate the call to repent, change and bear fruit.

Fig trees were and are often planted in vineyards in that part of the world and they are treasured for their delicious and delectable fruit but there is a big problem with this tree, it is barren, producing no fruit at all and hasn’t done for the past three years, or ever, It has been absorbing all the nutriments from the ground, depriving the surrounding vines of vital nourishment. Now, the owner of this fig tree, who must have been a regular listener of “Gardeners Question Time”, has a clear and direct solution,” chop it down”, he says “I’ve been looking for fruit for three years and it’s given me none, I’ve had enough, chop it down “and who could blame human but here’s the twist, the vinedresser, the gardener, intercedes and says he will dig around it and fertilize it and treat it with loving tender care to see if it will change and bear fruit. The tree is given a temporary reprieve, another year, to become useful, to bear fruit, when normally it would have been destroyed.

Another fig tree story, there are quite a few in the bible, Jesus Himself zapped one in St Matthews Gospel because it was useless and the tree withers and dies on the spot, but this is not a story of punishment, this is a story of mercy, of expectation, the expectation of radical change, this tree must change and bear fruit in the next year or else!

So Jesus is telling us we must repent, turn to God and change if we are to bear fruit, the fruit of repentance the fruit of grace, joy, hope and peace. The message from Jesus is quite direct, repent, turn to me, bask in my love and compassion change your mind, your life.

This all sounds a bit scary, are we to view our past with regret and sadness? Wallow in guilt and shame? No repentance is not about guilt and shame it is more about looking forward coming to our senses making changes and to look to the future with hope and love.

The ultimate sign of our repentance is not words or sentiment or feelings. It is action, actions of faith of love doing something differently bearing fruit. As Christians we are called to do actions of love, compassion, generosity, peace-making, justice, witness respect. These are the fruits of a mind and heart changed by the spirit of God.

The season of Lent is a time to repent to take stock of our lives, our hearts, our souls, and our mission, we our called to change, to bear fruit. There are some steps to help us here are some of them.

1. Acknowledge the need for God in our lives
2. Confess our sins, tell God about the things you regret and want to leave behind as you change your mind.
3. Accept God’s forgiveness. God is much more ready to forgive than we are to receive that forgiveness.
4. Change your mind your priorities. Let God renew your mind with His grace and love.

Finally, finally bear fruit, show some new actions, new practices that reflect the love God has for you and the love you have for God.
Repent. Change your mind. Bear fruit. There is a recipe for spiritual renewal this season of Lent. Jesus used a fig tree as a symbol of a new future. That fig tree was given the opportunity for renewal, its growth and its life. And thanks to God so are we.


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