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Sermon for Sunday 20.3.2022

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Sermon for Sunday 20.3.22

The gospel story today takes place when Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem with a group of pilgrims. One of them tells the story about how Pontius Pilate had recently murdered a group of Galilean pilgrims as they were making sacrifices in the temple.

The description of the massacre is vivid - the slaughtered Galileans lying amid the blood of their sacrificed animals is a shocking one.

Jesus responds to the story by dispelling the common Jewish belief, that painful experiences, such as had just befallen the Galileans, were signs of God’s judgments.

He calls into question the traditional belief that misfortune is punishment for sin for these Galileans, as well as another 18 people who were tragically killed by a falling tower.

He tells the disciples that those killed were no worse than anyone else in the crowd with him.

Jesus uses the examples to call his disciples once again into repentance, so that they will be better prepared for whatever happens, lest they too perish.

The call to repentance in the New Testament is a common call that Jesus makes upon his followers.

At the very beginning of his ministry in Galilee, in Matthews and Marks gospels we hear Jesus words “repent” for the kingdom of God has come near.

In Luke’s gospel today Jesus tells the disciples to repent or perish.

And the apostle Paul in summarizing his ministry, in Acts 26 .20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20).

In Biblical terms the word repent means to show remorse and turn from sin. It means to “change one’s heart”. Genuine repentance changes how we act towards other people and how we respond to situations in our lives.

We might also say that Repentance is a chain of events.

It’s a change of heart that leads to a change of thinking that leads to a change of attitude that leads to a change of feeling that leads to a change of values that leads to a change in the way we live.

Repentance is also the path to the healing of old wounds – it can lead to growth and spiritual maturity, and a broadening of perspective which frees one from an insular outlook. It is about dying to self and rising to newness in Christ.

With this in mind we can better understand why Jesus’ message in the gospels begins with the urgent call to repentance. It is the first step on the journey towards more effective ministry in God’s kingdom on earth.

As we know our season of lent is a penitential season – a time for repentance.

It is a personal time - for no one else can do it for us - to clean out the pantry of our inner being by surrendering to God all our out of date stock that takes up valuable space.

Those jars of resentment and bitterness, those sealed cartons of judgement and prejudice, those parcels that we even forgotten why they’re there and whose use by date has long expired.

Now it is true that we may be afraid that if we do this, we will lose our fortitude, perhaps even our sense of purpose, and it will be hard to survive through the cold days, weeks and months of life.

Well we can take heart, for God will only take and heal us of what we can bear at the time.

For this reason repentance is an ongoing journey - it is a foundational part of our very life, on the path to wholeness.

Most importantly it is about receiving something more, than what the world has to offer.

So how do we do it?

Well, many believe that only God can change our heart. And the good news is, we don’t have to strive to find God, nor is God something, or someone that we have to try and acquire, for God is already the ground of our being. He is closer to us than we can imagine. It is firstly a question of realising this in our lives.

And when we do, we may choose to sit prayerfully with God in the intimacy of silence, or quiet, while our heart speaks about the healing we seek; the change for the better we desire; the repentance we yearn for and the cleaning out of things that we need to let go of.

God knows our hearts, he is faithful, and he hears and honours our surrender.

Today’s gospel closes with the parable of the fruitless fig tree. This parable fits with the overall message of repentance. The vinedresser prunes and fertilizes the fruitless fig tree. He cares for it and nurtures it. And he tells the owner that if this doesn’t work, the owner can cut it down.

One interpretation is to say that God is merciful and we are given another chance over and again to turn to God, to repent, however, it is good for us to remember, that God’s patience is not to be presumed upon.

Theologian Robert Karris puts it this way. On the one hand, this is a parable of compassion, which produces comfort in the disciple who stumbles along the Christian Way. On the other hand, it is a parable of crisis, which should light a fire under procrastinators and other unproductive disciples.[1]

Jesus message for us today is as relevant as ever.

As Isaiah’s words tell us: Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near, for he is merciful and will abundantly pardon.

May we live each day in prayerful relationship with God and continue to bear fruit worthy of repentance.

The Lord be with you

[1] Robert J Karris, O.F.M. “The Gospel of Luke” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary; Student Edition, Geoffrey Chapman; London. P705.

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