On Sunday, we will celebrate Communion. Just a reminder: if you are joining us on YouTube for this communion service, please provide your own elements of bread (or a cracker) and wine (juice). For those participating in-person, the inner glasses of the tray contain white grape juice.
Lent, as we follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem, is a penitential season in the church year. We are supposed to take stock of our lives and to repent. Repent of what we may ask? Perhaps we are not conscious of breaking God’s law in any particular way. We are not aware of bad habits that need to be given up. Lent is often thought to be a season for practicing denial: giving up chocolate, alcohol, rich foods. But in this parable Jesus points us in a different direction. Here repentance involves a turning around, a turning to God, a transformation so that a barren life becomes a fruitful one. Something positive rather than something negative.
Tomorrow’s gospel lesson starts with people coming to Jesus with a question about God’s judgment, “when a building collapses (say, the theater in Mariupol) and some survive but others are killed, is it because they have angered God and are being punished for their sins? Hardly a common opinion in our time, but apparently not unusual in theirs. Misfortune was interpreted as God’s judgment. Don’t think like that, said Jesus. God is not out to get you for your sins.
Then he tells them a parable about God’s judgment and repentance. A fig tree has not borne fruit for three years. The owner decides that is it time to chop down this unproductive tree to make space for one that may bear fruit. But the gardener intervenes, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” God’s judgment includes mercy and a reprieve. Not forever, but time enough so that, with proper care and nurture, the tree can become fruit bearing. That, rather than punishment, is the objective.
In communion. Jesus invites us to the table to repent, to turn to God and be nourished so that we can become more fruitful disciples. The reality of God’s grace abounds. In the words of our Old Testament lesson for tomorrow: “Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.” The good news of God’s grace is not confined to the New Testament. It is there all through the Bible from the beginning, for those who look for it.
Order of Service
PWS&D Lenten Liturgy
Hymn 665: “O Worship the Lord”
Prayer of Adoration
Prayer of Confession
Declaration of Grace
The Lord’s Prayer
Responsive reading: Psalm 63
Isaiah 55: 1-9
Anthem: “O God you are my God” (Psalm 63)
Luke 13: 1-9
Hymn: “Comme un cerf altéré brame”
Meditation: “Repentance as fruitfulness”
Hymn 524: “We come as guests invited”
Offering and Offertory
Hymn 371: “Love divine, all loves excelling.”
Go now in peace