Luke 13:6 "And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none."
Sometimes it is necessary to state the obvious, fig trees bear figs, not apples, and not roses. Why does this matter? Because we live in a very fickle time, and sometimes we might decided that we are tired of figs. We might look at the tree, and say, there are no roses again this year, so cut it down, lets put something pretty in its place. Lets cut it down and try something different. Letís cut it down because we are bored, and perhaps a change will improve our mood.
You generally need to allow at least 3 years, after planting a tree, before it really goes into production, and thatís not starting with seed. There is considerable investment before there is any produce. Why is this important? Because the same people who are cutting down the fig trees, will probably be bored with the roses by next year, and if they were apples, that too would be uninteresting. What is happening is that the whole world is going into a destructive cycle, and productive trees are being cut down for no good reason. But our parable is not about the bored of the world, but it is about people who know what they have.
So, do you know what you have? You cannot evaluate something you do not know. Fig trees will never produce good roses. So, what do you have? We know that God works faith through word and sacrament, and that in baptism a seed of faith was planted, it was planted to grow, and in season to produce fruit. We know this because the scriptures say:
Rom 7:4Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, Ö in order that we may bear fruit for God.
So as we begin this new year, we take stock of the past year, and we consider the grace that God has poured into our lives. And sometimes we can get rather discouraged as we look at the disappointments, or at all the things which didnít get done. You see sometimes we look at the tree of faith, and the grace of God, and we say: "there were no roses! What did we do wrong?" And the first question then is this: Did God say we should expect roses? If not, what did God say we should expect? The scriptures say:
Col 1:10lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Thatís not roses, but it might also be something that we were not looking for, it may even have been something which we did not even consider important. The question to evaluate the past and look to the present is not how many roses where there, rather, it is quite simple, did we grow in our knowledge of God, and were their the real fruit of faith, that is good works present in our lives? Mind you, it does not say how many are necessary to consider it a good crop, all it says is, were there any? And did we learn anything more about God?
But that brings us to the next problem, because it is quite common for people to be completely unaware of the good works which they have done, chiefly because they are not done for our profit or enjoyment, but are done to the glory of God, and in thanks for the salvation which is ours in Christ Jesus. So, how might we know good works? Again we hear the scriptures, which talk of the fruit of faith, and these attributes are present in the good works, which are often unobserved, except by God and others.
Gal 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
So we look for "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" and where they are present in Christians, there must also be good works present. So, as you look at the past year, were any of these things present in your life? If not, then perhaps what you need is fertilizer and another year of growing. Or perhaps as you look, you can say, yes, there were some of these thing present, but I could have done better. Thatís fine, as long as you look for strength not in yourself, but in the grace of God. Some years are better than others, and we will never be prefect until God calls us to heaven, however donít give up on perfection, God is working each year to make the next year a year in which we know a little more about him, walk a little closer with him, and working to make us a little more perfect, and this ongoing work of God in our lives is called sanctification. Our Sanctification will continue our whole life.
The new year is a good time to repent of old sins, and to find in the grace of God, not only forgiveness, but the grace to change, and to live the new life which we have been given. The new year is a time to remember what kind of fruit we are looking for, and what kind of things feed such growth. We are looking to know more about God and is salvation in Jesus Christ, and we are looking for the fruits of faith in good works. And we are told that the things which encourage such growth, and promote such fruit are the word and the sacraments. Let us make generous application of the true spiritual food, thanking God for his grace in the year past, and asking Godís blessing in the year to come, as we do all things to the glory of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.