A Single Family Tree

March 24, 2019 | Luke 3:6-9; Ephesians 3:14-19, 4:1-6

It is that time of year again when people begin preparations to plant their gardens.  Sitting inside on window sills are tiny pots in which seeds are sprouting green, soon to be transferred to outside gardens where peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini will grow and bear their fruits in the warming soil and sun.

In the parable that Jesus tells there is a garden where stands a fig tree that is in trouble.  For three years it has not produced a single fig.  The owner of the garden declares it is a waste of good soil and orders the gardener to cut it down.  But the gardener has another plan.  A plan to give this fig tree another chance, more time.  A plan to invest greater care and attention, dig down to the roots and heap on the manure so that it will become fruitful.  If the plan fails, the gardener agrees, the tree can be cut down.   The fig tree in Jesus’ parable is a metaphor for human beings.  Our lives are intended to bear fruit.  Some may sit in judgment of us, or we in judgment of ourselves, or in judgment of others who don’t do their part, who don’t contribute, who lives seem barren, a burden, a waste of good resources.  And Jesus is the ever patient gardener in this parable.  The one who believes in our potential to flourish. The one who doesn’t give up on anyone, but invests his love and his life—his blood, sweat, and tears to enable us to be and do what we are made to be and do.

In the letter to the Ephesians the writer is using the same kind of metaphor to describe our lives.  We are like plants and trees.  We are being rooted and grounded in the love of God that we see fully revealed in Jesus.  We have been planted and are growing in this rich, rich soil—the life and love of God.  We didn’t plant ourselves.  We don’t supply the nutrients that give us life and cause us to bear the fruits of love—humility, gentleness, patience, and unity.   It is all gift.  It is all grace.   The power of God’s Spirit is at work in us so that we may comprehend the immensity of God’s immeasurable love and be filled with the fullness of God.  It is a huge, paradoxical claim.  That in, with, and through the Spirit we are able to comprehend a divine love that is incomprehensible and from this awareness, growing in this awareness of the love that surrounds us, we will be filled with the fullness of God.

If you want to know what it looks like to be a human being filled with the fullness of God, then look at Jesus.  If you want to be a human being filled with the fullness of God, then receive the truth of who you are—you are reborn and alive in the Spirit of Jesus the Christ.  You are rooted and grounded and growing in a love that never let’s go and never gives up.  You are tended and nourished by this patient gardener who says “I am with you, and for you, for the long haul.  It may take a year, it may take a decade, it may take to eternity, but I promise that you will know this love and bear the fruits of this love and be filled with the fullness and goodness of God.”

This is the divine promise that becomes visible and is sealed in the waters of baptism.  Baptism doesn’t cause God to love us.  It isn’t the start of God’s love and longing for us.  It is a sign, something we can see, something that tells us what is already true.  We are loved with immense and endless love.  We are destined to be filled with the fullness of God.  And what the writer of Ephesians makes so clear is that this is the destiny of every person.   “There is one body and one Spirit, one God, Father and Mother of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

We do speak of the church as the body of Christ, a gathering of the Spirit.  This morning we welcomed Harper Grace into the global body of Christ by welcoming her into this little part of that global body.   But the vision we find in Ephesians is a cosmic vision in which we see that there is one human family, one huge single body that includes all people, everyone created and loved by God who is above all, and at the same time through all, and in all, giving abundant life.

We are a little body within this larger body that includes every body.  And the calling to which we have been called is to live as witnesses to this cosmic love that embraces every body.  We are called to be little gardeners, nourishing, bending, tending, getting our hands in the dirt, singing love songs over tender lives, fertilizing fragile roots with the grace of God that grows us.  This morning we have promised to do this for Harper Grace as her life unfolds in our midst.  And this morning we are reminded of our unity with all people, our belonging to one human family created and loved by God.  We remember our call to live as grace-filled, patient gardeners caring for one another and our neighbors, bearing the fruits of love so that we can all flourish together, growing in the fullness and goodness of God—Father, Mother, Son and Spirit, who fills all with divine life and love, and never gives up on anyone.   So God’s garden grows, rich in diversity, rooted and grounded in this powerful love that makes of us one human family, and forms us as gracious gardeners who, like God, dig in, and spread heaps of love, and promise not to give up on anyone.

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