Der Vasken's Sermon on December 2, 2018

Dec 3, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Just a moment ago, we all listened to one of the simplest, yet one of the most meaningful, stories Jesus ever told.  It's the story of a fig tree that was planted in a man's garden.  It was a fig tree just like any other except this fig tree was slow to grow and even slower in producing fruit.  It was a fig tree that was well cared for, well nurtured, well pruned, well trimmed and well nourished. And after growing under these conditions for more than three years, it showed no signs of producing fruit on any level.  Not a single bud was found on this tree.

So the owner, who was feeling great frustration after showing years of patience toward this tree and receiving nothing in return, begins discussing the future of the tree with his head gardener.  The gardener believes in the tree.  He feels in his heart that the fig tree will soon begin producing fruit that will far exceed all expectations.  The owner wants to cut the tree down to make space for a new tree, but the gardener wants to wait one more year before taking such a drastic step.  And so they begin arguing back and forth with each other.  Should it be cut down or should it be allowed to grow for another year?

It's an interesting story whose message forces us to stop and think about our own lives.  

  • Are we as individuals producing the fruit that God expects from our lives?
  • And what is that expected fruit we were put in this world to produce?
In the Bible a fruit-producing tree is often used as a symbol of godly living.  So Jesus used this story to point out what would happen to the other kind of tree--the kind of tree that took valuable time and space but still produced nothing for the caring gardener.  This was one way Jesus explained to people that God expects all of us to be productive with the short time we have in this world.  In other words, He wants us to ask ourselves:  Have we been enjoying God's blessings in our lives without offering anything back in return?  If so, He is calling us to produce the fruit that God created us to produce.

There's a fable that I want to end with this morning that many of us probably heard in our childhood.  It goes something like this.  

Once upon a time there was a piece of iron that was very strong.  It was believed that nothing was strong enough to break it.  But one after another, an Ax, a Saw, a Hammer and a small Flame tried to break it. "I'll break it," said the Ax, "and it will only take me a few hits."  And its blow fell heavily on the iron but every blow made the Ax more and more blunt until it could strike no more.  "Let me at it," said the Saw.  "Leave it to me."  It worked back and forth, back and forth along the iron surface until its jagged teeth were all worn and broken.  Then it, too, stopped.  "Ah!" said the Hammer.  "I knew neither of you would succeed.  I'll show you how it's done."  But at the first fierce blow, off flew its head and the iron remained as before.  Then, finally, the small soft Flame spoke up.  "May I try?" it asked.  But the Ax, the Saw and the Hammer ridiculed the little Flame.  "Forget it," they replied.  "What will you be able to do that we couldn't do?"  But the little Flame curled around the iron and embraced it and never left the iron until it melted under the Flame's heat. 

It's a great little story that comes from Aesop's Fables.  We all have fruit to bear and a story like this can help us look at our lives the way God does.  We all have fruit to bear.  In this fable and in the parable about the fig tree, we are expected to produce fruit with our lives that will bring honor to God.  That fruit is different for everyone.

  • For some of us, sharing what we have with others is how we honor God.
  • For others, honor is given to God by caring for those around us.
  • And for others, extending a welcoming hand to a person, who knows no one,  is the fruit they produce to bring honor to God. 

For each of us, the fruit is different.

One more point, think back to the story of the fig tree.  That fig tree received a second chance.  The tree wasn't chopped down and that is a message we should all take to heart.  Our God is the God of second chances.  He allows us to grow at our own pace; to grow in our faith at our own pace and all He asks of us is that we try.  The God of second chances wants us to succeed, wants us to grow and wants us to make use of our talents for the good of the world around us.

So on this Second Sunday of Advent, ask yourself:

  • What is the fruit of your life that you will gift back to God this Christmas?
  • What is the fruit you produce that brings honor to God?
Christmas is right around the corner.  May we all think about the gift we can give back to God this Christmas Season.

Amen.