the one where we forget...yet God is here...
February 29, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from February 28, 2016

Sermon Text: Luke 13: 1-9

Grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, we are in the midst of Lent – in fact we are in the middle of it now. Whenever I think of Lent, I always circle back at some point to the length of this season and wonder why 40 days is so important.

Granted, I know that the 40 days we journey through this season is designed to remind us of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness in the midst of his own temptations, tests, and trials. A reminder that what Jesus went through we attempt to journey through as well.

But, that number still resonates with me – why 40? What is it about that specific number that is so important for us? Recently this question was brought up in my weekly sermon writing group that I attend with many local pastors – see, pastors ask these sort of questions too.

We bat around ideas here and there, nothing seeming to really fit quite right. It takes about 40 days to set a new habit, or break an old vice. Someone figured what was the longest time someone could suffer without chocolate – then added 10 days. Of course, none of those answers seemed really ‘good.’ We were about to just move on and give the tried and true answer of, “well, it’s just one of those things we weren’t meant to understand…” Which is really just the equivalent to your mom’s answer of, “because I said so, that’s why.” And sometimes, that answer is good enough and all we – as humanity – can muster.

But then, one of us had a thought – what if 40 days is around the time that we forget that God is with us. That leading up to 40 days there is that thought that creeps into your head of why on the earth are you doing this – I can’t do it any longer – God’s not really here with me…

Think about where we started this season of Lent. That Sunday before Ash Wednesday was Transfiguration Sunday. The story of Jesus being changed dramatically before his disciples in a mountaintop experience. That service every year speaks so strongly to each of us – through the word, the music, the remembrance of those mountaintop experiences in our lives.

In those early moments – in those first few days – it is easy to remember that God is present with us. The excitement, and awe, and fear of that moment still resonates with us deeply. It’s as if we can still tangibly touch the spirit around us immediately after that time. The same is true when we venture into Lent full of zest for our Lenten fast. Those first few days are great and we are buoyed by our resolve to abstain from the temptations of the world.

But, as with everything those first few days pass. A week or so rolls by and what was once so easy begins to pull and draw and call to us ever more seductively than it did before. Or perhaps the discipline we’ve taken on begins to feel like a weight upon us, where at first we were excited to partake in it, but now? Now, we try to see where it can fit within the busyness of our days – and if we skip today – we’ll just double up tomorrow.

Any of that sound familiar to y’all?

In the midst of this point in Lent, sometimes it is hard to see where God is present. It seemed so easy when this journey began to know that the Spirit was right there, seemingly guiding my hand and my thoughts throughout the day – but, now? Now that feeling seems so far away…

40 days. 40 days is long enough for the presence of God to seemingly fade into the background. What once seemed so close, now feels no closer than the sun. That presence that we take for granted so much that it’s as if it is not there at all.

I imagine that is what Jesus felt like during those 40 days, or perhaps the nation of Israel felt like in the midst of their 40 years as they traveled the desert in search of their homeland. A time just long enough for that feeling and presence to fade into the background that makes us think that perhaps God wasn’t there all along.

And yet, we read our texts this morning and we are reminded again and again of God’s presence. The promises that have been made in us and for us through the one who has loved and created us. In our first reading, God is crying out to the people – I’m here! Be fed! Be filled! Come to me and suffer hunger and thirst no more!

Our gospel text tells the story of a fig tree that doesn’t seem to bear any fruit. Yet, the gardener – the one to care for it asks to pay more attention to it. To dig around it, to fertilize it, to prune it, to help it grow. The gardener promises to continually be present with it so that it will bear fruit.

In the midst of these 40 days of Lent and in the life of faith that we live into, sometimes we can feel like that fig tree. Planted, but not growing. Rooted, but not flourishing. There, but not worth being around. We all can feel like that – we’ve all experienced that at some point in our lives.

But, we remember that there is one who looks over us. Where God speaks to us through Christ our Lord and says – let me dig around you, fertilize and fill you with good things, let me tend to you so that you once again bear fruit.

In the midst of these 40 days, as we fast as we look towards the end that doesn’t seem to get any closer, we can forget that God is present. That the presence of the Spirit seems to fade away into the background of our lives. That God’s presence seems no closer than that of the sun…

Yet, that warmth that we take for granted is still there. That light is still shining before us. The Spirit is still guiding us along our Lenten journey and our life of faith.

The gardener is indeed present with us. Tending to us, digging around, caring for us so that fruit might burst from within us.

And that’s they scary part isn’t it? That’s when we remember the first part of our Gospel reading and think that we’re going to end up just as the rest of those who fell victim to tragedy during Jesus’ time. Just another statistic lost to eternity.

Yet, we remember that we are able to repent because of God’s great grace for each of us. We are able to turn from that which draws us away from our Lord because our Lord is there to forgive. We repent not so that God forgives us, we repent because we know God already has.

The gardener is already working on you. The cup that Christ offers is already offered to us. Repent and be filled. Thirst no more.

Yes, 40 days is a long time. Just long enough to take for granted and forget the presence of God. Remember this day – God is present with you. Caring for us so that we might know that we are not alone. Amen.

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