The Third Sunday in Lent (C)
“The Patience of a Father”
March 24, 2019
Sermon Text: Luke 13:1-9
Peace be unto you from the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Friends in Christ,
Take a moment, if you will, and reflect on how patient you have been this week. Consider how patient you have been at home… at work… at school… at the store… in traffic. How patient you have been toward family members… your spouse, children, relatives as well as friends, colleagues, and even perfect strangers.
Those who exhibit great restraint… we oftentimes say that they have the “patience of a saint.” Are people saying that of you? I thought I would ask because I know the answer regarding myself and it isn’t always… many times… what I want to hear.
In our Gospel lesson for today, we have for our consideration, not the patience of a “saint”… but rather the patience of a “father”… our heavenly Father.
Our lesson begins, however, with a stern warning… a sober reminder… and this from Christ Himself. In this text, some individuals have just shared with our Lord events which speak to the sin and suffering that had been happening around them. Blood was being shed. A number of people lost their lives in a brutal fashion. Sound familiar? Is this not happening today? Is not sin running rampant today? One cannot listen to the news and not hear about some tragic event befalling some person, or a group of people, or a whole town, city or nation?
And to what is happening in and around the world, what does Jesus say? He looks as each and every one of us and declares, “Unless, you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:5) Could our Lord’s Words be any clearer… any more direct and up front?
And could they be any more encompassing, not addressing some, but all… ALL people… ALL the time… throughout time…. and certainly throughout all our life.
There it is in black and white. Unless you and I repent… we will perish.
“Repentance”…. now, there’s a word… an action… a type of behavior and lifestyle which has fallen out of favor (not that it was ever in favor).
Who likes to repent… wants to repent? Because doing so means admitting to one’s guilt… that you are in the wrong… that you made a mistake… that you have sinned and not just a teenee – weenee bit… but a lot. The truth is, we have sinned greatly. The truth is, we have sinned much.
But admitting it… owning up to it… is another thing. Our pride gets in the way along with our ego and a less than accurate and true view of ourselves. How often in our lives do we hear the words “I made a mistake. It is my fault?” How often do we, ourselves, say this… admit this… owning up to our shortfall?
Repentance, though, not only means to go through the motions of saying that we are wrong… that we publicly acknowledge and admit that we made a mistake… but that we are also “contrite” … that is, truly sorry… sorrow-filled… for what we did or did not do…. that it really bothers us… that we are literally “heart sick” over it… and that we want to make amends…. that, in fact, we do not even want to let the sun go down… another minute pass by… without trying to make things right.
What is more, repentance involves not only words… not only feelings deep inside… but also a change of attitude and action where we sincerely desire and make it our goal and purpose not to sin again… not to continue in the same old, same old…. that we change our ways.
Given what repentance really is and what it entails, it is no surprise that in our society today, we have effectively removed repentance. Now, when someone does something wrong, they simply make an excuse for their behavior or someone makes an excuse for them. We pat these individuals on the head and say, “There, there, that’s ok.”
Yes, we are to love people unconditionally… forgive them unconditionally… but repentance still must be there… it is still in the equation… certainly from God’s holy perspective… His divine will.
Yes, in Christ, by His death on the cross all people have been forgiven of their sins, but that forgiveness is personally received, appropriated, acquired and applied by faith. Because only by faith in Jesus Christ is there forgiveness…. only by faith in Jesus Christ is there life and salvation.
So, where does the patience come in… the patience of a Father? Look at our text, my friends. Our Lord states emphatically “Unless, you repent, you too will all perish.” And then immediately following He shares the parable of a man who had a fig tree in his garden. This man (who is God the Father) has a tree (representing mankind) from whom he expects… and rightfully so… that it should bear good fruit. In fact, he goes to gather such fruit, but finds none.
And this is not the first time this has happened. This tree has not borne fruit in three years. Interesting fact, fig trees can yield fruit twice a year and this particular tree has not even had it once, let alone 6 times or so that one would expect over the past three years.
The owner of the vineyard, God our Father, then tells the man who took care of the vineyard… in other words the “vinedresser” who is our Lord Jesus, to cut it down… cut the unfruitful… unyielding tree down. “Why should it use up the soil?” he asks.
The question is a good one… a valid one. And likewise, all who do not bear good fruit… the fruit of faith… are only taking up space and should be cut down… destroyed… removed forever.
Let us never forget what the Lord our God tells us in His Holy Word… that the wages of sin is… and always will be… death… eternal death.
But now in this parable that Christ shares, we see the wonderful role which He plays as our great High Priest… the One who intercedes for us… our one and only Mediator who pleads our case before God our Father.
In this story, the vinedresser pleads with the owner… asks the owner… to give the tree more time. “Leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”
What love our dear Savior shows here desiring to work in our lives and that of all men, women and children of the world… and this, longer… for more time… to dig away all that is harmful and nourish us and everyone in Word and Sacrament. He who desires that no one should perish, but bear good fruit… that all may come to faith and live in the faith and thereby have eternal life.
And we see quite clearly here the patience of the Father, God our Father… He who shows great restraint, compassion and love as evidenced by the fact that this world is still around… it is still here… people have time… precious time… they still have the opportunity to… yes, repent of their sinful ways and confess Jesus Christ to be their Lord both with their lips, but also with their everyday lives… and live!
The “patience of a Father” is most certainly here and seen in the precious time God gives to mankind. There is still time, thankfully time, but that time is not infinite, but rather finite. The vinedresser said, “Let it alone for one more year” … ONE more and no more.
As incredible as it might seem, there are countless men, women and children who are gambling that they still have lots of time… will… for a while… have time… time to “get right with God” … after they have had their “fun” and did all that THEY want to do and accomplish.
As incredible as it might seem, there are countless parents, family members and friends, who are willing to gamble that their loved ones have more time… time to “get right with God.” So they do not urge, persuade and encourage, let alone admonish. They do not warn those whom they supposedly love and care for… they do not plead with them to turn from certain destruction, eternal destruction, while there is still time.
The vinedresser said, “If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.” And here is the million-dollar question – Who knows when that year… the final year is up… for us, individually… and for all of mankind, collectively?
Holy Scripture warns us… indeed… it is the vinedresser Himself… Christ Jesus our Lord who warns us earlier in this very same Gospel saying, “Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:9)
Dearly beloved of the Lord, rejoice! The patience of a Father… God the Father is most certainly there… here… for you… for me. As is the patience of a Son… God the Son, our Lord Jesus… and also that of God the Holy Spirit. This, the one true Triune God.
Divine patience is most certainly there… here for us…. and in this we can take great comfort. Indeed, all of us… to a person… in his or her own life… can certainly see how patient God has been toward them… toward us multiple times over.
And so may we make good use of the time He has so graciously given to us to come to faith, ever remain and grow stronger and stronger in the faith, bearing good fruit year after year after year… all to the glory of God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Patience of a Father” 3/24/19 The Rev. Mark H Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL.