Figtrees and Repentance (Luke 13: 1-9)

Luke 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’

What does it mean to repent? That was the question I decided to focus on when we met. The image I decided to focus on was the manure that the gardener proposed to use to help the tree to flourish. So repentance has an urgency to it ("unless you repent you will all perish just as they did"), but also there's a sense of an ongoing process ("let it alone for one more year until I dig round it an put manure on it.".)

But what is repentance actually? It's a big question, but the aspect we focused on was the idea that repentance is changing your mind ("be renewed by the transforming of your minds" Romans 12:2.) Not so much in assenting to a bunch of various truth claims, but rather in seeing things how they really are. We watched a clip from the Matrix (yeah, I'm Gen-X) where Morpheus offers Neo the opportunity to see how things really are.

We then jumped to talking about story - that we are fundamentally story-inhabiting creatures, rather than proposition-believing creatures (although, of course, we are that as well, but secondarily). We talked about the stories that our culture considers normative - not with a view to saying "culture bad gospel good", but to understand them, to see what is really going on.

Finally, this relates to the church seasons thing - what is the point of Lent? The answer to that is to do with how do we go about inhabiting God's story of redemption? The church seasons, of which Lent is of course one, is part of doing that.

Possibly this was a bit ambitious for a hot Tuesday night - but I hope it provokes some thinking for you.

If you're interested in the area of story and theology, you might like to read Smith, James K. A. (2013-02-15). Imagining the Kingdom (Cultural Liturgies): How Worship Works. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.