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Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

A parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘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.’” [Luke 13:6b-9]

One more year; one more growing season to change; one more opportunity to work with the gardener and produce fruit.

We’re not so great at parables anymore, or maybe we’re just as dense as the disciples were back in Jesus’s time. So many times the disciples had to ask Jesus to explain the stories. But not this one; this one is up to us to figure out.

Who is the owner of the vineyard? Who is the one who cares for the vineyard? Who is the fig tree? What is the fruit? Why didn’t the tree produce fruit? How would the soil be fertilized? And what does it mean to be cut down?

God is the owner. Jesus is the farmer/caretaker. I am the tree. But what is the fruit?

I did a little investigating and apparently the fig tree was one of the most valuable trees in Israel at that time because it bore fruit three times a year. So, in the parable, that means that this particular tree, still hadn’t produced fruit in any one of the seasons that had passed. So, why keep this tree? It was planted for the purposed of yielding fruit. That was the job of the tree, not acting as a shade tree, not as an art object, and not as a road marker. Fig trees bear figs. Fig trees don’t bear apples or peaches or cherries.

Each human “fig tree” has its own fruit as well. Oh, sure, there are the fruits of the spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23 if you want to review the list). And certainly, all trees should have these attributes. On the other hand, a friend of mine said that the fruit of the tree is more believers, more followers of Christ, more like-minded, like-spirited people. This interpretation makes me feel like it’s a numbers game (how many people have you “saved?”).

No, I’m much more interested in the specific and unique fruit that comes from me. Or you. Or any other believer. We each bring something to the table of community and to the Body of Christ. Sometimes, it’s a complex recipe and my part may be small compared to another, or vice versa. I know there are seasons I have missed. But I am grateful for a merciful gardener who is willing to tend and nurture my soil. I am still growing. I am still in the orchard.

The soil is fertilized through prayer and study and relationship.

I can only say, I am still here. And as along as I am, then I will take comfort that my seasons are more fruitful than I may realize. It is not I who must judge the harvest.

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Acts 7:33
Then the Lord said to him [Moses], ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground…’ [Stephen to the Sanhedrin]

I have always thought Moses was told to remove his sandals because they defiled the ground. But today, as I read this passage, I see something new: it was important for Moses to actually feel that holy place with his feet. There was strength and truth and power that would touch him through the ground, that holy earth spot.

I don’t have much experience, background or tradition of holy places outside the church or in various para-church settings. But I think there would be more experiences if I would open myself to them. I too often cocoon myself away from seeking out holy places.

In the same way that Moses stepped onto holy ground initially in sandals, I clothe myself in tradition and limiting expectations. It’s time to take off my shoes…. again.

Some years ago, I was on the cutting edge of worship. I was listening to the Vineyard and Hillsong and even Maranatha before that. I was standing on the charismatic bandwagon and riding up front. I was dancing and praising and jumping and shaking and laughing. I was speaking in tongues and singing in the spirit. I was prophesying and interpreting. I was on fire.

But I don’t think I was standing in bare feet on holy ground. Not really. I was going through the motions (and emotions) of what it might mean to touch holy ground. Actually, all I did was put on a different pair of shoes than the more traditional churches were passing out to their congregants.

Today, there is another generation of believers who is trying to take off their shoes and experience God’s holiness. For some of us, it’s too different. They are getting their feet very dirty. They are slopping through some weird stuff, but they are persisting through the swamp and on to higher ground. They are loving God and loving Christ Jesus and loving their neighbors. They are emergents like the Emergent Village, they are Christianity 21, they are Catalyst, they are in “conversation.” They are connected virtually and face to face. They are Solomon’s Porch, Apex, House of Mercy, Ooze, Axxess, Sublime Remix, Boaz, Headspace, Cedar Ridge, Water’s Edge, Tribe, Resonance, Three Nails, Mars Hill, and ReIMAGINE, to name just a few. They are embracing Christ in our culture and sharing His relevance with those who have long since worn boots in all the holy and unholy places.

For the naysayers against this new brand of followership, I remind them of Gamaliel, “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” [Acts 5:38-39]

Lord, take my shoes this day and help me touch holy ground. Give me insight and transforming power. Give me courage to walk in this new place. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll dance again.

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