Today’s scripture readings (Exodus 3:1-81, 13;15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 1012; Luke 13:1-9 and Psalm 103: 1- 2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11) are full of messages from God to his people. Moses’ message to the Israelites is one of deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
Paul’s message to the Corinthians, and Jesus’ to his disciples is one of repentance and accountability. “Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” Paul looks back at the followers of Moses who were struck down in the desert because God was not pleased with “most of them.”
Jesus cautions his disciples not to think that victims of tragedies (Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices and eighteen people killed by a falling tower in Siloam) are somehow guiltier than everybody else: “By no means! But if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” Jesus continues by telling of a gardener who pleads with an orchard owner to spare a non producing fig tree: “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down.”
Who is the orchard owner? Who is the gardener? Could both be Jesus? One the King of the universe who comes to judge the living and the dead and the other the loving, patient, pleading Savior and advocate, who sends the Spirit to make us fruitful?
Inevitably, we will fail. Repeatedly. But Psalm 103 reassures us: The Lord is kind and merciful. He pardons all our iniquities, heals all our ills, redeems our life from destruction, and crowns us with kindness and compassion. I read this crowning with kindness and compassion two ways: 1. The Lord’s kindness and compassion to us, redeeming us from destruction and 2. The Spirit working within us to make us ever more kind and more compassionate.
The scriptures are clear. It isn’t enough just to be members of the tribe, or of the “club.” We are accountable to God for being fruitful where we are planted.