- Moses and the Burning Bush
- Paul's admonition to not be like 20,000 who died because of their sexual immorality
- Jesus' explaining those whose blood was mingled with sacrifice and the death of 18 when the Tower of Siloam fell.
Pick your poison.
In my tradition, I'll be the one reading the Gospel lesson, and it seems to me that people assume that I'll flow from reading the lesson to preaching on it. So I've got to honestly deal with Pilate's blood lust, natural/engineering disasters, and the landowner wanting to cut down trees.
Keith just left my office having challenged me to really dwell on the Parable of the Fig Tree and how it gets read allegorically. Who is the landowner and who is the gardener. This isn't our usual parable in which God is always the landowner. God, or at least the God I've come to know over the years, can't be angry and capricious and ready to cut down at a moment's notice those who "waste the soil." God is more like the gardener, the one who waits patiently, tending and pruning, until the shrub he has planted blooms with a beauty unmatched by anything.
In light of Haiti and Chile and snowpocalypse 1 and 2 and the young deckhand from Orange Beach whose untimely death left his wife and 3 kids virtually helpless and stories that I've yet to hear and will never hear, in light of all of that, the Church has to deal with the ugliness of the gospel lesson today and stand firm in the truth that God did not punish the people of Haiti for a vodoo pact 400 years ago, he did not punish the people of Chile for whatever it is Pat Robertson will say they did, he did not punish DC for their leftist agenda, or that young deckhand for whatever mistakes he might have made, God was holding out hope for everyone who died in each of those cases to turn the corner and produce good fruit. Some of them did. Some died before they could. Some never knew that they were made to produce fruit. Whatever the case, God didn't punish them, events happened and they died, and God goes on pruning and fertilizing and hoping against hope that each of us will turn around and produce good fruit.