Der Vasken’s Sermon on December 5, 2021

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

It’s not very often that I get surprised by the words of a politician but listen to this quote: “Our work in the year ahead cannot and should not be about politics and the next election in Massachusetts. In our last year, we want to focus on the pandemic recovery and not on the grudge match political campaigns turn into.” This was a quote I heard from the Governor of our State last week.

He has made his decision about re-election and he has decided not to seek another term in office. Now, right up front, let me say that this is not a political sermon of any sort. Whether you wanted him to run again or are happy that he is not, is for you to know and is up to you. But I found his words to be refreshing to say the least.

He knew, first hand, what the Commonwealth went through over the last eighteen months and how important it is that we now focus all attention on bringing back some sense of normalcy to our way of life so our schools can function as they were created to function and our stores and restaurants and our houses of worship and hospitals can be everything they were created to be.

“Coming out of the last eighteen months,” he said, “we are more aware than ever before of how little we can take for granted when it comes to our family, our friends or our time in this world. Our focus needs to be there,” the Governor said. He is talking about doing the job that needs to be done; doing the job that he was elected to do; and doing the job in such a way that his work produces fruit and benefits the people. I felt proud that an elected official, in this day and age, would actually make such a statement and decision.

Just a moment ago, we all listened to one of the simplest stories Jesus ever told. It is the story of a fig tree that was planted in a man’s garden. It was a fig tree just like every other except this fig tree was slow to grow and produce fruit. It was a fig tree that was well cared for, well nurtured, well pruned, well-trimmed and well nourished. After growing for three years under these ideal conditions, it was now time for it to begin producing fruit.

I once read that fig trees begin producing fruit in their third year, but this particular tree showed no signs of producing fruit any time soon. Not a single bud was found on this tree. So the frustrated owner, after staying patient for three years and receiving nothing in return, begins discussing the future of the tree with his head gardener. The gardener has great hope for the tree. He feels in his heart that the fig tree will soon begin producing fruit that will far exceed anyone’s 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. 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 lives.

• Are we as individuals producing the fruit that God expects from our lives?
• What is that 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 up time and space but still produced nothing for the One Who planted it.

Through this story He explained to people that God expects all of us to be productive with the time we have in this world. In other words, He plants a question: “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.

We all have fruit to give. In this 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 some, honor is given to God by caring for those around us. For others, extending a welcoming hand to someone is the fruit they produce to bring honor to God. For a Governor, giving up glory and power for the good of the people who elected him is a way to produce fruit and do the right thing. For each of us, the fruit is different.

God wants us to succeed and wants us to grow and wants us to make use of our talents for the good of others. So on this Second Sunday of Advent, ask yourself:

• What is the fruit 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.

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