Lent 3-C, 3/11/07

“Unless We Repent”
Luke 13: 1-9

1“At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” 6Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” (NRSV)

n Hebrew the idea of repentance means to return and to feel sorrow for one’s sins. Often times we hear God calling Old Testament Jews to “Return to my fold and change your ways.”

In the New Testament the word translated as 'repentance' is the Greek word “Metanoia" which means to “change directions in life” or “to change one’s mind about lifestyle issues.” It also carries with it the concept of feeling guilty of sin, which is the impetus to change directions in daily life. Metanoia is more of an afterthought, or re-thinking of life’s issues. The idea of returning to one’s former standards and relationship with God in Christ is also a vital part of repentance in cases where a former believer has backslidden from his/her former relationship with Christ and his Church.

This sermon has perhaps stirred up experiences that you have witnessed, or participated in yourself at a Methodist Revival Meeting. Or, perhaps you have experience with a “Summer Campmeeting.” There are still over a dozen Methodist Campmeetings circling the Metro Atlanta area. If you have a history with Methodism you probably have been in settings where you were encouraged to repent of any sins that you were feeling guilty of, and to commit yourself to Christ who can help us lead a more sanctified life.

The concept and practice of repentance is clear in our INVITATION to participate in Holy Communion in our Ritual. I will not read it all but the first few lines make it clear,

“Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: Draw near with faith, and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort, and make your humble confession to almighty God.”

Note that God offers guaranteed pardon if we will confess our sin, and repent of it, and accept the sign of new life by coming forward and meekly kneeling on our knees for the whole congregation to see.

Repentance leads to conversion. Conversion means new life thereafter. Many of us trace our experiences back to a time of repentance and conversion that has marked a dramatic change in our lives, our choices and our destiny.

The big thing among Baby Boomer homeowners is renovation of one's kitchen and/or bathroom. This cost is around 20-K each, and after the grand inconvenience and expense we typically hear folks referring to "Our NEW Kitchen and Bath!

What really is the difference in a new person or a renovated person?  The old sinner is made new, as is the old, used up kitchen is made new with new walls, ceilings, floors, cabinets, windows and appliances. When the old man is made new he/she is totally new.

And when we repent and are converted into a new person, we have to let the new person in and forget the old sinner. His forgiveness is guaranteed and we should not hold on to the eradicated old edition. God does not remember our sin nor should we.

And let’s not forget Jesus’ parable/story which is the clearest part. It’s about a fig tree which was planted in a vineyard but was not producing figs. Fig trees are not a shade tree. A fig tree is not a pretty tree which we admire for its looks. Its only use is to produce figs. So, the owner of the vineyard said, “cut it down, it is wasting the good ground.”  

After 2000 years we still understand this story because we all have some kind of crop. Or, we have dead grass in our yards. We have had several dead trees removed this year which were threatening to fall on our roof. This is God’s way of dealing with dying trees.

Of course this parable about the useless fig tree is meant to say that if we trust that if we repent of our sins and are progressing in our Christian life; and, if we are accepting the forgiveness and freedom that God gives us, then we will flourish.

If our text says, “Unless we repent we will perish: It also means that if we do repent we will flourish. God wants his people to flourish, to be the best figs in the vineyard, the heart of the community, the giants of business and innovators in education. He wants to hear people say, “These are the best figs ever, I wonder who their vinedresser is?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
Lent 3-C, 3/11/07