Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, Zephaniah 1:14-18, Revelation 14:14-15:8, Luke 13:1-9
One of the most troubling clichés in Christianity is blaming someone’s misfortune on a lack of faith. Many an action contains the seed of its own consequences, and we want to avoid those tragedies, but catastrophes like illness and natural disasters happen to the faithful, the doubtful, and the indifferent in equal measure. We don’t know the details of why or how the tower of Siloam fell and killed eighteen people, but Jesus – unlike many of today’s televangelists – used the tragedy not to shame the victims, but to point out the need for everyone to repent:
Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.
In other words, don’t put off until tomorrow what could be prevented forever by a falling tower today.
Why are we eager to link tragedy with sin, especially when Jesus said otherwise (see also “it rains on the just and the unjust” in Matthew 5)? Maybe because we want the world to make sense. Maybe because the inverse proposition is that a lack of tragedy assures us we are doing faith “right.” Maybe because we trust the (imaginary) justice in front of us more than God’s eternal justice. Whatever the reason, Jesus tries to redirect our thinking away from externally-directed blame and inward toward repentance.
Jesus follows up with a parable about a vineyard owner with a fig tree that hasn’t produced fruit in three years (perhaps not coincidentally the length of Jesus’s active ministry). He wants to cut it down, but the gardener asks for one more year to tend and fertilize it. We never learn the fate of the tree.
Rather, it bends us toward God regardless of fortune. Like the fig tree we need to develop roots that dig deep and branches that stretch for the light so we can bear fruit through all kinds of weather. We repent joyfully because God loves us enough to offer a future regardless of our past.
Comfort: Whatever the question, faith is the answer.
Challenge: Think about something in your life you wish would change. Is there something you could change within instead?
Prayer: God of possibilities, do with my life as you will. Amen.
Discussion: How do you typically react to problems that are beyond your control?
Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!