Putting God First: March 3, 2013: Luke 13:1-9
This reading begins with Jesus referring to Galileans who were murdered in worship by Roman soldiers, and to people in Jerusalem killed by the collapse of a tower. The theology which has God in control of everything, punishing and rewarding people according to God’s determination of what people deserved suggested those people deserved to die. Jesus challenged that idea, and then went on to say everyone faces the possibility of death at any time. Their primary task, our primary task, was to center their lives on God. The reading implies that turning to God will help avoid death. We know that death does not seem to care how good or bad we are, we will die, and we might die young or old, painfully or peacefully, slowly or suddenly. Death is. What lies in our control is how we live.
According to Luke, right after this incident, Jesus went on to tell a story about a fig tree which had not produced fruit in three years. The owner suggested cutting it down, but the gardener asked for one more year to give it a chance to produce. The parable suggests we have limited time to do what is right, to live lives that bear good fruit. I am not sure what to do with this aspect of the parable. I am intrigued that the owner who has power over the tree, but no intimate relationship with the tree readily decided to have it destroyed. The gardener, who did have an intimate relationship with the tree, wanted it to have another chance. When people have power over others without real relationship with them, they can make harsh decisions about those people. Those without great power, but with real relationship, will do anything they can to help and protect them.
Without justification, I would like to suggest that a possible connection between these two parts of the same reading is that one kind of good fruit may be building real relationships with others.