We are about three weeks removed from the spectacle that is the "SUPER BOWL!" This years
Super Bowl featured for the first time brothers facing off as apposing coaches. The media made
a big deal out of this and played it up to their advantage. Also it featured one of the "good guys" of football, Ray Lewis. Now some of you might not think he's such a good guy since about 10 year ago he literally pulled and O. J and got away with murder. But unlike O.J Lewis responded to that life crisis in a positive way and changed his life around. He became an out spoken Christian and a positive role model for young people and young NFL players. He encouraged them to "not surround themselves with people who did not share a positive vision for living." That's a nice take on it and his whole experience is a good example of how a life of repentance can seriously impact, not only an individuals life, but the life of others as well. One thing I remember form the Post-game show was an interview Lewis gave. In it the reporter asked, "how do you feel about winning the super bowl?" Lewis' response was, "I feel great! When God is for you, who can be against you?" Really? God was for the Ravens? God preferred one Harbaugh over another? Not even the Harbaugh parents were willing to go there, but God did? This may sound silly, but it goes to show how often we speak for God and assume things about God that are not true
You've heard it said that "kids say the darnedest things." We say this because some of the stuff that comes out of the mouths of our children is so miss informed and ridiculous and rightfully so, their kids!! But this saying is true for Christians, adult Christians that have been going to church for a life time!! Indiana Senate candidate Dick Murdock, a self professed Evangelical Christian, was quoted this past election season saying that, "even in terrible situations like rape, Gods will is done in creating a life." Really? Excuse me Mr. Murdock, have you been raped? Do you know the terror, fear and emptiness that rape victims feel? Either way how dare you claim that it was God's will? Christians say stupid things like this all the time. When someone dies we say, "God needed them more in heaven than we do here." I don't think so. This kind of statement devalues this life in favor for the next, when that's not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught us to pray thy kingdom come on earth like it is in heaven. That means heaven on earth and the kingdom of God right here, right now, not in some distant, far off, sweet by and by, but now! We say after terrible tragedies like Sandy Hook and Hurricane Katrina that it was God's will or even worse, God's judgment on our nation for allowing gays to breath or women to vote or some stupid belief like that! God doesn't punish us by causing tragedy in fact God doesn't dish out punishment at all, at least not in this age. Even insurance companies have listed on their claim forms, "Act of God." as if God caused a persons house to be destroyed by a storm or flood. Were do we get this stuff from?!!The bible clearly reveals to us that the only thing God gives to use is love, compassion and mercy. I believe this all comes from years of bad theology taught in well-meaning Sunday school class rooms and uneducated pulpits, and be assured, it's bad theology that does nothing to futher the cause of Christ.
How do I know this you might ask? After all you might be a graduate of one of those Sunday Schools of bad Theology, you migh have sat under years of an uneducated, uninformed, but well meaning pastor who gave you all the proof you needed to see where God judges the unrightous and where everything that happens is somhow related to God's grand play for humanity. To you I simply point to this weeks gospel passage. In this passage Jesus is confronted with two events that were tragic events of the time. One was the massacre of Galilean rebels in which after slaughtering the rebels Pilot mingled their blood with the sacrifices in his pagan temple. The second event was when the watch tower near the gate Siloam fell and killed several people who were on their way to worship at the Jewish temple. The question the crowd had for Jesus was, "did they deserve it?" Were these people who suffered tragic events somehow being punished for their evil ways? Jesus' response is and emphatic NO! Jesus said they were no worse sinners than any of them were and that everyone is a sinner and needs to repent or else suffer destruction, eternal destruction.
This is a challenging passage for us and is perfectly placed during Lent. Lent, after all, is a time of self reflection and introspect, it's a time to recognize our mortality and with that mortality the truth that we are all sinners and we all need to repent. Yes, every last one of us needs to repent! No matter how rich you are, no matter who you are related to, no matter how often you go to church, you need to repent. This doctrine, so to speak, was one that got our founder, John Wesley, in hot water with the ruling class of his day. He actually purposed that whether you were a peasant or a noble, you were a sinner! The prevailing belief of his day was that Nobles were somehow more like God than peasants because, after all, they were blessed by God with wealth and prestige and the poor peasant...they were cursed with poverty, illness and hunger...they must have done something wrong! This is similar to the mind set of the people in our passage this morning. Though this is not how our society thinks so much anymore, there is still this prevailing belief amongst evangelicals that if bad stuff happens to good people and especially bad people...its from God and they deserve it! This week we hear clearly Jesus say...."THIS IS WRONG!"
I think one thing that contributes to this bad theology is the belief that repentance is a one time thing that happens with a bunch of boohoo's, tears and drama. This might be the case at first, or maybe even every so often, but it's more about a life style. We need to be repentant people, who regular recognize the mercy of God in our lives and each others lives. Then and only then will we be able to live as regenerated people. The rest of this passage points out to us that repentance is not beyond any person. Jesus continues with a parable about a land owner, a gardener and a miss behaved fig tree. The owner sees a fig tree that has failed to bare fruit after 3 years and is fed up. He tells the gardner to cut it down, but the gardener is reluctant and asks the owner for more time to care for the tree and nurture it until it bares fruit and if after that it fails to do so then he will cut it down. So often we think of societies worst people, i.e the guy that killed all those people in that theater in Colorado, the young man who shot and killed those 22 6 and 7 year olds at Sandy Hook, the Islamic Extremist who flew those plans into the twin towers and killed over 3,000 people... that those people are beyond redemption. I whole heartedly believe in hell and believe there are real people who really go there, I also believe that hell is an existence too, one that we can create for ourselves and one people can create for us, but I also believe there is no one so evil, so damaged that the love, compassion and mercy of God cannot reach them. Thats what Jesus is saying here, sometimes all it take for people to turn around, that is repent, is time and love. Sometimes they don't respond and the fig tree gets cut down, but I have a feeling that more often than not they respond and become barer's of fruit, spiritual fruit that blesses God and others. Do you need to repent this day? Do you need to welcome Jesus into your heart, the gardener into your orchard so that he can bring you back to life? Do you need to return to living a life of repentance so that you can lead others into repentance and bare fruit for the kingdom? Or maybe you are like the crowd and need a change of heart repentance that causes you to see that you're not perfect just like the world around you? Whoever you are, where ever you are at. God is calling you to repent and be saved!