3rd Week of Lent: Patient Gardeners

This post continues our walk through Lent. To find out more about Lent, go here. We begin each week with a reflection that includes scriptures and prayers that can be used daily as meditation and devotion. The three of us are also doing this Lent calendar and will be posting on how our “fasts” connect to the weeks readings.

There’s this little garden marked out in our back yard. We’ve never planted anything there, but the previous owners had put some small plants and flowers out at one point in time. But not much useful or pretty has every grown there. Just ground cover, mostly.

And a small tree. A small, ugly little tree.

At one point I thought I’d killed it. Robbed of water by the drought-like Texas summers and my apathetic (lack of) irrigation, it looked like it had seen its last days several years ago. So one day, hoping to clear out that garden, I cut everything down to the ground – plants, flowers, grass and that ugly little tree.

Only it came back. Somehow, some way that little thing came back and stands pretty tall to this day. I’d just given up on it way too early. I didn’t have the patience to see what that little tree could become, but it grew nonetheless.

Our first Lent reading today from Luke 13 tells a similar story. A simple little tree that didn’t appear to be worth much. Yet unlike my story, the gardener saw more. Instead of apathy, he gave it care and food and love. He didn’t give up even when no fruit was evident.

At this point in Lent, it’s easy to get bogged down – to see our fasts as an ugly little tree bearing little fruit. And we could easily give up.

Or we could press on. We could dig the ground and feed the soil. We can continue to invest believing that the fruit will soon be evident.

Today I hope you choose to be the good gardener. To invest and not give up. Because only then can we enjoy the fruit.

Scriptures

Luke 13:1-9

About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered?Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”

Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’

“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”

Isaiah 55:1-9

“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know,
and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Psalm 63:1-8

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food,and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.

Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

Prayer

Dear Lord,

Your amazing grace is amazing.

I am grateful today for your patience –

as you bear with me even when I do not bear fruit.

Thank you for your grace that does not give up on me.

Help me today to show that same type of patience.

Give me the faith to trust you today

even if I cannot see the fruit of my devotions.

Tend the soil of my heart, O Lord

that I may grow and bear fruit that may bless others.

Amen.

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