3/14/04 , L3C
young and fearless preacher had a problem with a somewhat worldly parishioner who would remark sarcastically every Sunday as he shook the preacher's hand at the front door, "You got them today preacher!" Sunday after Sunday this same fellow never seemed to feel that he himself needed to repent and always felt that the sermon was intended for everybody else. Then one Sunday there was a bad snow storm and the preacher and this one fellow were the only ones that showed up. The preacher seized the opportunity and preached his entire three-point sermon on, "Hell, Fire, and Damnation." Well, the one congregant again walked out the door and shook the preacher's hand and said, "If they had been here today preacher, you would have gotten them real good!"
And this is the very point of Jesus' words in our text: Twice he says, "...unless you repent, you will perish just as they did." (v. 5, NRSV) Sin infects all of us; but, the tendency is to see the sin in others more clearly than in ourselves. Jesus made the humorous analogy that we see the speck in our friend's eye, but fail to see the log in our own eye.
One of the great things about our Methodist heritage is that we encourage all physically able persons to come to the Altar and kneel for Communion. It's a humbling act for the elitist and proud, those who came to church thinking that the service would be for other sinners and never themselves. Those who appear to be so righteous; the kind of folks that Jesus said were like "decorated graves that outwardly looked beautiful, but were inside full of death." Jesus was accused by the Pharisees of associating with sinners, and he did seem to prefer the company of, repentant folks better than the unrepentant.
The point of this story is that the sinner is no longer guilty of their sin once a contrite confession is made and the slate is washed clean. We cannot not sin, but when we do God forgives us completely. This is the cornerstone of our message of Good News!
Our test records two events that had just happened in Palestine . In the first breaking news announcement, Pilate, the Roman Governor of the region, had evidently had some Galilean Jews killed as they were at worship, possibly in Jerusalem, and had allowed the sacrificial blood of lambs the intermingle with human blood, which was a terrible breach of Jewish customs. Jesus' reply was that someday all of us will die and unless we have turned to God, our death will be just as final as was the deaths of those massacred. Jesus went on to relate how a Tower of Siloam, possibly in Jerusalem, had fallen and killed eighteen people, and for a second time Jesus says, “Unless you repent you will die a final death, perhaps a painful, or accidental death, if you do not repent, which means to confess your sins, ask forgiveness, and in turn receive God's forgiveness.
Jesus did not expect them to understand how we can be forgiven through Jesus' Passion of the Cross; even the Apostles did not understand it yet. However, in today's world we can look back at how Jesus gave his life so that we can be forgiven of our sins and be given a new friendship with God.
God wants all of us a friends, of another analogy is that he wants us as children in his family. He wants us to exercise our God given free will to choose to be his friend, his son or daughter in the holy and eternal family. Unless we choose to enter into a fellowship with him, we will be left outside the gates of glory. Salvation is offered universally to every person, but only those who repent will be given eternal life.
The problem is that God has taken a chance on free will for us, and unless somebody, somewhere steps forward to explain God's plan of salvation, few will ever hear it. The challenge is for all of us to bear fruit and multiply the Church.
Fruit bearing is the point of Jesus' third analogy. For two-thousand years folks have read this parable and have caught on that we must all bear fruit, or we will be chopped down. It is not that we must try to bear fruit real hard, but that the very nature of a healthy fruit tree is that it will bear fruit. Thus, the very nature of a healthy Christian is that they will bear spiritual fruit for the work of the Kingdom.
The fig tree was never intended to be a shade tree, or an ornamental tree to admire. But when it is full of figs it is begging to be harvested because its limbs are breaking from the weight of the abundance of fruit. The only purpose of a fruit tree is to produce a crop. Perhaps the link between these stories of Jesus is that when we repent, when we submit to God's calling and plan, it is our very nature to bear fruit.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor