A reflection on the readings for Lent 3C: Isaiah 55:1-9by the Rev. Karla J. Miller
This winter and spring, my congregation is exploring the ideas in progressive Christianity. We did a book study on Marcus Borg’s book, “Speaking Christian”, and we are using the book to guide our lenten conversations around God, Jesus, Forgiveness, Mercy, and Salvation. What I am learning from my congregation is that although they think progressively, act progressively, and love progressively, they don’t always have the theological language with which to speak progressively. Especially about God.
So, we are working on that.
Most of my people understand God as Love. As an immanent, transcendent reality that is present in the world. The ground of all being, in who we live and move and have our existence (Acts 17:28). The idea of God out there, separate from the universe, controlling, authority-figure that is often the God that atheists argue against its existence, is not the one they know. This is the God they see splashed across the evening news when a religious expert (usually from a radically conservative perspective) is called upon to speak for God.
I think about this God in the context of the gospel lesson this week. You see, I think that Jesus was trying to point out to the “some present” is that their idea of sin and the Divine was humanly skewed. Jesus was offering a message of real change--you don’t have to “think it in the way you were taught” without questioning; you don’t have to “do it the way it always has been done” because guess what? The old paradigm doesn’t fit anymore. God is Love. God doesn’t give a rat’s ass about these little picky “sins” as you name them. God cares that God’s message of Love is offered to all.
Can’t you just see Jesus saying to us, the Church, “Just look at your empty pews! The old paradigm is clearly not working, so why keep trying to tweak it and patch it and dress it up and dress it down? Unless there is true, bold change at the very heart of it all, it’s not going to work.”
We all know change is incremental in institutions. Especially the Church. And yet, while within our walls on Sunday mornings, where our comfortable worship and hymns cling to words that address Our Father who are in heaven, a heaven that is out there, and a hell that is down there--there is a dying, crying world outside--OUTSIDE--on our streets. There are children in the wet, bitter cold of Syria who have no shoes--literally, walking barefoot or in flip-slops in icy mud, where human waste ferments because of lack of sanitation. There is the twelve year boy in your catechism class who is already diagnosed with anorexia, because it’s the only control he has in his life. And then there are those polar bears, the mama and cub, stranded on an ice floe, surrounded by water, because of global warming, and they will simply perish, because there is no way out.
Don’t they need a God who is with them? Don’t they need to know that the pain, the suffering isn’t their fault? Don’t they need you, us, the Church--to be healing love, rather than what it is perceived to be?
Our gospel lesson calls us to Repent. Now. Change. Now. Not in incrementally so that we are comfortable and don’t feel the uneasiness of it all. We are in a time in Christianity, where we need to embrace that fact that we are indeed in living in a post Christian world. Where we are called to make Bold Decisions. Where we are called to prophesy, “God is GOOD! God believes in you!” and where we act, outside of our walls, because we believe that God cares--about the polar bears and freezing children and lost teenagers.
The good news in this text, though, is that Jesus recognizes that a little time is needed, though, for change. He gives the fig tree a year to bear fruit--and if it doesn’t--then it might as well be cut down--to make room for a tree that does. We, the Church, have a little time. If the pews aren’t full on Sundays--then maybe we need to take the pews to the people, to the world. We have some time to do that, and hopefully, as we boldly lead, the liberating, nourishing Ground of All Being Love will bring new life in our world.