Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

Then 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. So 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?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'" (Luke 13:6-9)

This past Wednesday in the Sacramento Bee I read the obituary of Ernest Gallo. Two of the Gallo brothers, Ernest and Julio, started a wine business at the end of Prohibition. They went into the Modesto public library and found some old extension-service pamphlets that laid out the fundamentals of growing grapes and making wine. They learned the basics and put them to work, building a remarkably fruitful business enterprise.

The master gardener of the vineyard of the parable offers similarly fundamental counsel. Let’s give it another year, he says.

“Healthy soil usually equals healthy plants. Dig in composted organic material.” – that’s from yesterday’s Home and Garden section of the Bee. It is almost a quotation from the gospel: “dig around it and put manure on it.”

What the gardener in the parable does is what gardeners do. What is extraordinary is the patience.

This tree should have been producing figs three years ago. Why not just rip it out and put in a new one?

That’s what the owner wants; but the thrifty gardener prevails. Give it another year. Let’s see what a little extra care, and patience, can do. If it bears fruit, well and good: otherwise, cut it down.

If we are the tenders of our gardens, of our souls and lives, and Jesus tends the people of God, and the Holy Spirit watches over all, then this Lent let us see what a little extra care and patience can do.

No extraordinary measures, no ripping out and replacing, no pesticides or herbicides, just extra care, common wisdom, stooping down to the back-bending, and fragrant, work of tilling the soil, nurturing the growth of the tree, of our lives, our lands, our churches, our endeavors, to help them grow, in God’s good time.

March 11, 2007
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Sacramento. 12:45 pm Eucharist
Pioneer House, Sacramento. 6:30 pm Evening Prayer

The Lessons Appointed for Use on the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C - RCL:
Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-1
Luke 13:1-9

“Ernest Gallo 1909-2007: He turned Americans on to wine,” The Sacramento Bee, Wednesday, March 7, 2007, A1.

“Tips for Integrated Pest Management,” The Sacramento Bee, Saturday, March 10, 2007, Home & Garden, 8.

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