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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reflection on the fig tree that didn't bear fruit

Reading: Luke 13: 6-9

In a faith group meeting today we were reflecting on the verse above. I thought I would share my thoughts.

The first thing I thought about the story is that it makes sense from an agricultural point of view. If you have a tree in your vineyard that refuses to bear fruit you should get rid of it because it is sucking up resources like nutrients, space, sunlight and water which could be used to feed a plant you can actually benefit from. At the same time, it makes sense to try everything before you take the plant out, so it should be dug up and fertilised as suggested in the parable. The fact that this parable makes sense in these terms reflects the fact that Jesus grew up in the country, and he understood farming and the environment. Some have suggested this is why Jesus often refers to nature in his parables, but there are few specific teachings on how to treat the environment in the New Testament. Jesus's background means that he would have understood our relationship deeply from both the sources of scripture and experience, as would most of his audience, making it unnecessary for him to talk about this relationship extensively.

Another thing I thought about the story is that it is a relief to know that if we don't produce fruit, God will make an effort to dig us up and shake us through life's trials and fertilise our faith to give us a chance to start producing fruit before he decides to cut us off. We are given a second chance. Some other members of the group suggested that the story is about not giving up and trying different ways of getting results.

Finally, I began to think a bit further on the applications of the story, picturing God as the vineyard owner who is tired of wasting resources on this tree (us) that doesn't produce fruit, and Jesus as the keeper who pleads with him on our behalf for us to be given a chance and to be given the Holy Spirit as fertilizer. Then I was thinking about us here in the west, using up many times the resources it is fair for us to have. We have excess food and clothing, we have access to dozens of churches and the freedom to worship without persecution, we have access to Bibles and Christian books and the internet. Basically, we have been provided with bountiful resources for growth. Yet for all these resources we are being given, are we producing sufficient fruit? Are we using those resources to help others, to make the world a better place and to give it a future? If we are not, perhaps it is time God gave us a shake up and some fertilizer; because if we won't use the resources responsibly, I'm sure there are many developing nations who would like to try.

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Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+